Dockless cycle hire stations in Edinburgh closed after ‘wanton destruction’ of bikes

Just Eat Bikes
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The operator of Edinburgh’s bike hire scheme is to shut all its dockless stations following thousands of pounds worth of damage from “wanton destruction” across the city, The Scotsman has learned.

Just Eat Cycles will close all 31 of its remaining “virtual stations”, where users do not have to lock bikes to stands.

Docks which bikes are locked onto will be installed at the stations in their place.

Serco had expected to install around 70 virtual stations among its planned network of 100 by next March, where cycles are left freestanding but immobilised using internal locks.

The plans have been scrapped following unexpectedly high levels of vandalism.

In addition to 100 of the 500 bikes being damaged, as The Scotsman revealed in May, a further 50 have gone missing.

Serco, which runs the scheme for city council-run Transport for Edinburgh, said it had been forced to increase its mechanics from two to five to cope with the damage.

Just Eat Cycles general manager Charles Graham said: “We have seen a lot of vandalism, which we were surprised by as it was at a higher rate than in London [where Serco runs the main hire scheme].

“The virtual stations were subject to abuse because the bikes were not secured to a physical dock. We do not think they are quite right for the city.

“Initially, people were trying to steal the bikes to use them, but that changed to wanton destruction – they were hit with hammers and cones. It’s quite depressing.

“It used to be localised but is now happening all over, including in the city centre.”

Mr Graham said problems at virtual stations had also been caused by winds blowing bikes over, damaging brake levers.

More stations will be sited in well-lit, busier areas that are covered by CCTV, with a total of 74 in operation so far.

Mr Graham said the damage had cost thousands of pounds, but this was borne by Serco under its contract with TFE.

But he said the rate had fallen significantly since staff had started promptly picking up bikes not left properly secured after being rented.

Mr Graham said he also expected many of the 50 missing bikes to turn up as they were often abandoned after suffering a puncture, with some in London being recovered after three years.

Nextbike, which runs Glasgow’s 650-bike hire scheme, said vandalism had been “very minimal” and only a few bikes had gone missing.

Ian Maxwell, of Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, said: “It is a great shame Just Eat has to take this move at a time when more and more bikes are being used properly, but using the docking stations should avoid this vandalism.”

City council transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “To purposefully damage bikes meant for the use and enjoyment of the public is unacceptable.

“Edinburgh hire bikes are meant for people to explore the city, helping them to benefit from this healthy, sustainable mode of transport, so this kind of behaviour is extremely disappointing.”

A spokesperson for official development body Cycling Scotland said: “It’s disappointing to hear this. A bike hire scheme is a public service, just like public transport, and can be a great way for people to access bikes and the benefits of cycling.”