Edinburgh cycle hire scheme launch delayed until autumn

Edinburgh's long-awaited cycle hire scheme will not now be launched until September - missing the Edinburgh Festival - its operator revealed today.

Angus Cockburn of Serco and George Lowder of Transport for Edinburgh trying out the new bikes on the Royal Mile. Picture: Greg Macvean
Angus Cockburn of Serco and George Lowder of Transport for Edinburgh trying out the new bikes on the Royal Mile. Picture: Greg Macvean

The planned summer start has been put back, and electric bikes won't be added to the scheme until around August next year, although it is hoped some may be available in the spring.

A total of 500 manual cycles will be available for rent, starting in the city centre, with 50 electric bikes to follow that will have a range of about 45 miles between charges.

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The first 200 manual bikes will be available from September, with a further 300 by next April.

First view of the Edinburgh bikes in their cobalt blue livery. Picture: Serco

However, no details of hire prices have been announced.

The London scheme charges riders £2 a day and it is likely to be similar for casual users rather than regulars joining the scheme.

Today's launch of the city council-run Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) scheme comes a month after The Scotsman revealed London "Boris Bikes" operator Serco had won the contest to operate the scheme.

They reckon the scheme could eventually be expanded to 2,000 bikes.

The cycle hire scheme being launched on the High Street in Edinburgh today. Picture: Greg Macvean

A "high-profile sponsor" is still being sought to help fund the project.

Banks Barclays and now Santander have sponsored the London scheme.

Serco showed off the bikes it will use on the Royal Mile today in its red company colour, but they will be painted cobalt blue after heritage watchdogs urged a more muted hue.

Electric Pashley bikes will be added to the hire scheme by September 2019. Picture: Serco

Serco said it was launching the scheme to coincide with students returning to university, but it might "showcase" the bikes during the Festival.

The Pashley bikes to be used are similar to those being introduced in London.

However, they will have a "redesigned gear set to better suit Edinburgh" - to help riders tackle the capital's hills.

A Serco spokesman said: "We are launching in time for the start of the university academic year.

"We believe there will be strong interest in the scheme for students and that is the timescale that we need to make the scheme operational."

TfE said last month the three-year project was "due to be introduced from this summer",

Serco said: "We are looking to see what we can do to showcase the bikes during the Festival period.

"The electric bikes will be introduced by the end of the first year of the scheme.

"Customers will be able to have an annual membership or hire on a daily basis for shorter periods.

"We will also be looking at a possible single ride rate.

"We are not announcing the actual pricing at this stage."

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TfE chief executive George Lowder said: "We are delighted to have concluded the concession agreement with Serco that sets the conditions for a long and successful partnership."we are going to take a more measured approach."

He said the bikes would be introduced later than planned because of the lack of time to complete work before the Festival.

Mr Lowder said: "Rather than trying to rush things in June before a moratorium on works in July in the run up to the Festivals,

He said the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust had recommended the bikes' red colour be "toned down to be more suitable for the city".

Serco Group chief financial officer and chair of Serco in Scotland Angus Cockburn said: "We see a huge potential opportunity to improve urban mobility across the city, helping tosupport economic growth, reduce traffic congestion, and improve health and wellbeing.

"We are looking forward to building partnerships with the city’s employers, community organisations and attractions to raise awareness of the scheme as a fun, healthy, easy, environmentally friendly and affordable way to travel."

University of Edinburgh principal Professor Peter Mathieson, said: "We are pleased to do our part in helping the council meet its target of 15 per cent of Edinburgh residents cycling to work by 2020."

The university has a "memorandum of understanding" with TfE to be an "active partner" in the scheme to help encourage the city's other universities and colleges to take part.

Ian Maxwell, of Spokes - the Lothian cycle campaign, said: "Getting the scheme to work well at the start is more important than speedy implementtation.

"Edinburgh has already waited a while for bike hire and a few months more don't matter much.

"The more serious delay is that affecting the introduction of electric bikes, as they could be a really important plus factor given Edinburgh's terrain."