Edinburgh cycle hire scheme to include electric bikes

Electric bikes to help riders up Edinburgh's hills are to feature in the capital's long-awaited cycle hire scheme to be launched next summer.

A cycle hire bike. Picture: John Devlin.
A cycle hire bike. Picture: John Devlin.

Electric bikes to help riders up Edinburgh’s hills are to feature in the capital’s long-awaited cycle hire scheme to be launched next summer.

The project is expected to provide at least 600 bikes, including at least 100 electric models.

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They would be available for pick up and drop off at points across the city.

Schemes are well established in cities such as London, with Glasgow doubling the size of its three-year-old system in September to more than 900 bikes.

A three-year contract for the Edinburgh pilot scheme is due to be advertised early next month. More than a dozen potential operators have expressed initial interest.

It is expected to be the largest electric scheme in the UK after Derby, which has plans for 200 bikes.

The move comes ten years after the city council shelved plans because of its cost.

The current plans involve minimal launch costs, which have been estimated at £150,000, with the running costs of some £4 million funded by the winning operator through sponsorship.

The city council’s Transport for Edinburgh body (TfE), which is developing the scheme, said electric bikes were a crucial element.

It said they would help cyclists tackle the capital’s hilly terrain while also making cycling more accessible.

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Electric bikes would attract novice, and less fit or confident cyclists, and enable people to pedal about without getting their clothes sweaty.

No prices have been announced, but Glasgow’s scheme charges £1 per 30 minutes, or £10 for 24 hours.

It also has a £5-a-month membership scheme, under which the first 30 minutes of every hire are free, with the next 30 minutes costing 50p, and £1 thereafter.

Bikeplus, the umbrella body for hire schemes, said charges for electric bikes were generally only slightly higher than those for other cycles.

Director Antonia Roberts said vandalism was a bigger problem than theft, despite their higher value than other bikes.

She said: “They have GPS trackers, tend to be heavily branded and their components don’t have much resale value.

“Edinburgh is crying out for a scheme, particularly one including electric bikes.

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“It will absolutely fly and expand out.”

TfE chief executive George Lowder said: “On current planning, we hope to issue a contract notice and invitation to tender in early December. We are aiming for a pilot scheme to be in place by summer 2018.”

Mr Lowder said he expected the winner to be chosen in February or March.

He said: “The city’s topography is a key factor in including electric bikes, but almost as much it is about accessibility.

“Technology is moving fast and becoming more affordable, and battery packs are developing.”

Bidders are likely to include nextbike, which runs both the Glasgow scheme for the city council and one in Stirling, to which 50 electric bikes will be added next year.

UK managing director Julian Scriven said: “Given the unqualified success of these schemes, we very much hope to be in the running.”

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Others include artists Jenna Seymour and Leezac Robinson, whose E-City Cycles bid would involve 1,000 electric bikes at 50 sites.

Dave du Feu, of Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign, said: “The plan to include 100 electric bikes is a real innovation, which will therefore need to be monitored carefully, but it could prove a big hit for trips such as from the city centre to the Botanics or up the Mound.

“Although we expect the scheme to be a success, our biggest concern is the need for a less traffic-dominated city centre and particularly for segregated cycle provision in Princes Street. A major bike share scheme would both contribute to, and benefit from, a more people friendly city centre.”

Council transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “Many European cities now have successful schemes in place, which help encourage residents and visitors to keep active while exploring their surroundings on two wheels. I am pleased Edinburgh will soon join their ranks.”