IT’S the quirky scheme that’s become synonymous with the busy roads of central London.
But now Edinburgh is set to get its own version of Boris Bikes with a new hire service expected to be launched by ScotRail operators Abellio on Monday morning.
The “Bike & Go” facilities at Haymarket station will allow busy commuters to take advantage of 15 top-of-the-range bikes for £3.80 a day, with a £10 subscription rate for using the service. The Dutch-style scheme comes as rail passengers have been told to expect six weeks of misery as major works on the main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow get under way at the start of next week.
The closure of the Winchburgh Tunnel to allow an electrification programme to go ahead will cut the line between Linlithgow and the Capital, adding at least 30 minutes to rail journeys across much of central and east Scotland.
Rail chiefs said it was hoped the new bicycle hire service would allow stressed commuters to “avoid the hassle of taking a bike on a crowded train” or replacement bus during the disruption.
A half-price subscription of £5 – with the first rental coming free – is being offered to new customers until July 26.
Monday’s launch is part of wider plans by Dutch firm Abellio to roll out bike-friendly innovations in Scotland’s busiest stations, with ten bicycle hire points set to be put in place within the first two years.
Similar schemes to Haymarket’s new Bike & Go service have already proved a hit in Stirling, where it was introduced in April.
The Bike & Go cycles boast “puncture resistant tyres” and front and rear luggage carriers – as well as pedal-powered dynamo lights.
David Du Feu, organiser of cycling campaign group Spokes, said he was “obviously delighted” with the plans.
He said: “We were not expecting it to happen so soon, but they are bringing it in quickly because of the Winchburgh Tunnel works.
“We’re just delighted they are starting it so soon and we hope it’s successful and leads to more being implemented.”
Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and co-convener of the cross-party group on cycling, insisted the move was a sign Edinburgh was keeping up with other “progressive cities” in Europe.
She said: “This is very welcome progress. It’s something that Edinburgh has been discussing for many years – certainly since I was a councillor.
“It’s really important that we give people the opportunity to get around the city quickly, conveniently and in a way that keeps us all active – as well as addressing Edinburgh’s air pollution.
“I really do see this as a win-win. It will help improve our health and save us cash and it reduces pollution.”
A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “We have worked hard to launch our Bike and Go scheme at Haymarket in time for the rail improvements works.”
A city council spokesman said the authority was “very keen” to introduce its own bike hire scheme across the city, with a report on the issue set to go before councillors in October.