Edinburgh cycle hire scheme ends tonight with no replacement likely anytime soon

Edinburgh’s Just Eat cycle hire scheme, launched three years ago, comes to an end at midnight note-0 tonight after operators Serco said it would not extend the contract amid higher-than-expected costs for vandalism.

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The city council said it was exploring options for a new cycle hire scheme, but it is understood the process of deciding whether or not there should be a public subsidy for such a venture and then putting the contract out to tender means it will be some time before any new scheme is launched.

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Council chiefs said the cycles for hire had been a big success.

Vandalism was a particular problem, adding to costs Picture: Greg Macvean

Launched in 2018, it was the fastest growing cycle hire scheme in the UK in 2020, with city residents making up the vast majority of 234,500 trips that year amid travel restrictions and repeated Covid-19 lockdowns.

During its operation, it saw bike-users cycle a total of nearly 1.8m kilometres, it scooped a Scottish Transport Award and in 2020 it also netted the Scottish Transport Award for Cycling, Walking and Public Realm.

The scheme was designed to be self-financing, with the sponsorship form Just Eat and the hire charges intended to cover the costs, meaning no funding was required from the council.

The council wanted to agree a four-year extension of the contract with Serco, but the company was not interested because the existing terms left it with all the financial risks.

The Just Eat cycle scheme was launched in 2018 Picture: Greg Macvean

Vandalism was a particular problem. Last year, around one in four of the scheme's 550 bikes had to be repaired every week.

George Lowder, chief executive of Transport for Edinburgh, said: “It’s incredibly sad the scheme is closing. It was a catalyst to help people get back on a bike and start cycling again or cycle when they did not have access to a bike of their own.

“It is hugely disappointing for all our team, who have worked tirelessly to build a successful service. We will be supporting the council to develop options for a new scheme and to continue to promote cycling in Edinburgh. We’d like to thank all our customers for their loyalty, support and for choosing a sustainable way to travel.

Sam Jones, micromobility director for Serco UK and Europe, said: “We are incredibly proud of what the scheme has achieved, supporting residents and visitors to travel around the city in a sustainable way.

At least 550 Just Eat Cycles are available to rent in Edinburgh. Picture: Greg Macvean.

"The feedback from our customers since announcing the closure has reinforced the positive impact the scheme has had and how important active travel is in the city.

“Serco operates successful cycle hire schemes in other areas of the UK and we truly hope we can return to Edinburgh in the future to continue the journey.”

A report is due to be presented to the council’s transport committee in November outlining next steps for developing a new cycle hire scheme.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “It’s a pity this very popular and successful bike hire scheme has had to close and we very much wish this wasn’t the case.

"However, we’re working hard on exploring future options for the Capital – the appetite is clearly there to keep access to bikes for everyone in Edinburgh given around quarter of a million trips were made by hire bike last year alone, and we’ll do what we can to make that happen.”

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