The firm which runs the so-called “Boris Bikes” in London is poised to win the contract for a similar cycle hire scheme in Edinburgh, The Scotsman can reveal.
Serco is the preferred bidder for the project, which is due to be launched this summer with 500 bikes and 100 electric bikes.
The cycles, which are expected to be expanded to 2,000, will be available to pick up and drop off at sites across the city.
Serco has operated the London scheme, which costs riders £2 a day, since it was launched by mayor Boris Johnston in 2010.
It now has 11,500 bikes at 800 docking stations and was used 10.4 million times last year.
The Edinburgh bikes are expected to be similar to new non-electric models being introduced in London, built by Stratford-upon-Avon firm Pashley Cycles.
They will include a UK-first lock which enables bikes to be secured away from traditional docking stations.
City council-run Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) said: “The scheme will be delivered without significant capital or revenue cost to the city through an innovative collaboration between TfE and Serco.”
Serco has won against rival bidders such as Nextbike, which runs Glasgow’s 500-bike scheme.
It also runs the Caledonian Sleeper trains to London and NorthLink Ferries to Orkney and Shetland.
Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said more segregated cycle lanes would be vital to cope with the extra cyclists.
Ian Maxwell from the group said: “Just adding extra hire bikes into the already severely congested city centre is neither attractive nor terribly safe for cyclists. Edinburgh has plans for more cycle lanes but they need to be accelerated to coincide with the hire bikes to avoid stoking up problems.”
Conservative city councillors applauded the scheme but bemoaned the time taken to launch it – it comes a decade after they first made the proposal.
Transport and environment spokesman Nick Cook said: “It is welcome news that an operator has finally been selected to deliver a cycle hire scheme for Scotland’s capital city.
“Disappointingly, it has taken over ten years to deliver the scheme – in which time Edinburgh has fallen well behind many other European cities.”
City council transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “The scheme aims to encourage thousands more people to explore the city on bike, improving the quality of life for residents and visitors.”