The news that JC Decaux might start a public bike hire scheme in Edinburgh as part of their advertising contract to provide bus shelters in the capital comes at a time when cycling in the city is already becoming more and more popular.
Experience from London and Paris suggests public cycle hire could provide an added boost to this cycle revolution. Two main groups of people would be expected to take part – tourists visiting the city who want to get around on two wheels, and city residents who want to use the bike for an occasional cross-town trip but don’t commute with their own bike.
Another target audience might be the people who don’t have enough space in their tenement flat for a bike, although the city is already looking at on-street parking in answer to this problem. Some cycle shops already have their own hire schemes, but a public scheme will mean hire bikes will be parked in prominent places in the city and available for immediate hire. Many of these schemes allow use of the bike free or at very low cost for the first half hour, meaning that it becomes an attractive addition to the public transport service.
The bikes used in these schemes are usually heavier than the average bike with single speed or hub gears. Edinburgh bikes should at least have three-speed gears to cope with hills, with a low enough bottom gear make the Mound or Dundas Street possible.
When the hire scheme started in London there were concerns the users would suffer high rates of accidents. The bike hire cyclists are typically unhelmeted, include tourists and others unfamiliar with central London’s roads – but are three times less likely to be injured per trip than other cyclists. This is maybe because the bikes are conspicuous and drivers give them more leeway.
While Spokes welcomes any measure that will increase the amount of cycling in Edinburgh, we do hope that it will be possible to use bikes from any other Scottish scheme as easily as possible.
Ian Maxwell is spokesman for Spokes cycling campaign