Just Eat Cycles has underlined its runaway success as the UK’s fastest-growing bike hire scheme by expanding from Edinburgh to Musselburgh as it celebrated two years in business.
The city council-owned Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) operation said it now expected to notch up nearly 250,000 hires this year, twice as many as the 124,000 in 2019.
Two new bike docking stations were opened at the weekend at Brunton Hall and Harbour Road beside the marina in Musselburgh for up to 19 pedal end electric bikes each.
Alex Macdonald, general manager of the Serco-run scheme, said the popular cycle corridor between Portobello, Joppa and the East Lothian town was an “obvious gap”.
He said hires in those areas on Edinburgh’s eastern edge had been “exceptionally strong”, with some 17,000 so far this year.
Mr Macdonald said: “This is a big opportunity for the scheme and we hope people will use it to ride into the city.”
However, he said the move, agreed with East Lothian Council, was not part of an “expansionist strategy”.
Mr Macdonald said the development came as the scheme was growing “at pretty unprecedented speed.”
There have been almost 183,000 hires so far this year, more than double the 87,000 over the same period in 2019.
Nearly 54,000 people have hired bikes this year, which is increasing at 1,000 a week. 2019 saw 22,000 users.
Mr Macdonald said the scheme’s e-bikes, introduced in March, had been “absolutely fantastic”.
He said there were being ridden up to a third further than expected, averaging 3 miles.
Mr Macdonald said bike hire schemes like Just Eat Cycles had been one of the few parts of the economy to have boomed during the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “I do not think there is a scheme in the UK that has grown as fast.
“Lockdown was a really important time for us in that we kept going when many other things shut up shop.”
However, he admitted the operation still had a major problem with vandalism.
Youths were now targeting docking stations as bike security improved.
Mr Macdonald said staff were working much closer with the police, with a new app developed so officers could see immediately whether a bike had been stolen.
He said: “There absolutely is a vandalism problem in Edinburgh, but the stations are being targeted more because we are doing a better job of keeping the bikes secure.
“We are making a lot faster progress on this.”
Some 120-130 of the scheme’s 550 bikes are having to be repaired every week due to a combination of vandalism, wear and tear, and weather, such as strong winds blowing them over.
TfE chief executive George Lowder said: “We’ve been buoyed by the amount of people riding our bikes this year.
“We are incredibly proud of the scheme’s sustained growth and look forward to further success and expansion where possible.
"The introduction of e-bikes earlier in the year has been instrumental in providing greater access to sustainable travel to different demographics.”