Falkirk, Stirling, Alloa electric bike scheme launched today is Scotland's biggest

Scotland's biggest electric bike hire scheme was launched today covering Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire.

The new bikes being unveiled today. Picture: Mark Ferguson

The 120-cycle Forth Bike project by Forth Environment Link has beaten Glasgow and Edinburgh to be first to provide power-assisted bikes for public use.

The bikes will be located at 12 charging stations including at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, where the scheme was launched by public health, sport and wellbeing minister Joe FitzPatrick.

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The others, to be opened over the next few weeks, will be in Falkirk High Street, Stenhousemuir, the Falkirk Wheel, Helix (Kelpies), Stirling and Alloa stations, Stirling University, Stirling Care Village, Bannockburn, Tillicoultry and Dollar.

The scheme will initially have 120 electric bikes at 12 locations across Forth Valley. Picture: Forth Environment Link

The bikes will cost £2 per journey to hire, or unlimited use for a £65 a year membership fee.

A free one-month trial will be offered to the first users, with more bikes expected to be added by next March.

The Canadian Bewegen cycles have a range of some 60 miles between charges and are tracked by GPS.

Glasgow will add 63 e-bikes to its city council-run hire scheme in September, while the Just Eat Cycles scheme in Edinburgh has yet to announce its e-bikes start date.

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Funding for the £500,000 Forth Bike scheme has come from the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency, NHS Forth Valley, the South East Scotland Transport partnership co-ordinating body, and Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Falkirk councils.

Mr FitzPatrick said: “This provides affordable and easy access to modern e-bikes at a fraction of the cost required to buy the latest models.

“This progressive initiative will widen access to the benefits of active travel and increase opportunities for sustainable transport over single-occupancy car journeys for everyday trips.

“This initiative supports our climate ambitions, improves air quality and benefits our health and sense of wellbeing – directly contributing to our objective of developing an Active Nation, where more people can enjoy the benefits of walking and cycling than ever before.”

Forth Environment Link executive director Clara Walker said: “Forth Bike aims to connect communities across Forth Valley, opening up access to services and employment opportunities by offering a flexible, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to travel.

"Cycling is also great for our health.

"E-bikes give as little or as much assistance as you need, making them great for those getting back in the saddle or new to exercise.”

Among the first groups to use the bikes will be bowel cancer patients taking part in a study into the health benefits of active travel.

NHS Forth Valley lead colorectal nurse Linnet McGeever said: “We are becoming more aware through studies that exercising can optimise a person’s health and improve recovery time when having major surgery.

"We welcome the cycling scheme as an opportunity for patients to improve their fitness with the benefits of trained instructors.”

Clackmannanshire Council environment spokesman Craig Holden, said the scheme “will also add to Clackmannanshire’s growing reputation as a destination for healthy, outdoors activities.”

Bewegen chief executive Alain Ayotte said: “Our team has launched e-bike systems around the world and what has been clear above all else is that electric bikes drive a massive shift towards cycling."

Forth Environment Link already runs a 160-cycle hire scheme with nextbike.