A PIONEERING Boris Bikes-style scheme has got off to a slow start – but it has been tipped to pick up speed soon.
With a promotional campaign in the pipeline and a positive reaction from cycling experts, the team behind Haymarket station’s Bike & Go service hope commuters will soon be switching to two wheels in their droves.
But a trial run by the Evening News around Haymarket – carried out with the help of cycling campaign group Spokes – found cyclists should be prepared for some heavy lifting, with the bikes’ surprising weight their most striking feature.
The Dutch-style resource allows busy commuters to hire out one of 15 bikes for £3.80 a day after they have paid a £10 subscription rate. Similar services are often called Boris Bikes after a scheme set up by London mayor Boris Johnson.
Rail chiefs said it was too early to share sign-up figures but staff at Haymarket admitted business had been slow so far – though they had high hopes the scheme would pick up once it was fully launched.
Ian Maxwell, chairman of Spokes, said his first reaction to the bikes was “definitely positive” – with a few misgivings.
He said: “They are good quality bikes. They are better than any other hire bike scheme I’ve seen in Britain, and they are quite attractive to look at. Having good luggage carriers is a real plus because somebody arriving off a train has nowhere to put their stuff.
“But, on the negative side, they are heavy, and for some people that will be a bit of a problem – or it will just limit the amount they use them. You would only want to go so far. And if they swapped the uncomfortable saddle they would make them instantly more attractive without costing a lot.”
Greg Aitken, manager of The Bike Smith in Haymarket Terrace, was more critical, again citing the bikes’ weight – which he estimated at between 25 to 28 kilos – as one of his main concerns.
He said: “This is heavier than any bike in our shop. My overall summary is that it’s ‘un-fun’. The saddle is very uncomfortable.”
First floated when Abellio took over the ScotRail franchise in October last year, the service’s launch on Monday came as rail passengers were told to expect six weeks of misery as a result of major works between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The Winchburgh tunnel has been closed to allow an electrification programme to go ahead, adding at least 30 minutes to rail journeys across much of central and east Scotland.
Last week, rail chiefs said it was hoped the 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. In an effort to alleviate commuters’ concerns and win them round, a half-price subscription of £5 – with free first bicycle rental – is being offered until July 26.
The Raleigh cycles boast “puncture resistant tyres”, front and rear luggage carriers and seven gears, as well as pedal-powered dynamo lights. And despite its drawbacks, Mr Maxwell said he hoped the facility would prove a success at a time when more cycle-friendly measures are sweeping Edinburgh, insisting it was the “right time” for the city.
Donna Barr, a customer service team leader at Haymarket, said the scheme offered customers an environmentally-friendly transport option, adding: “It’s just started here, but down south more than 1000 users have signed up over the first year-and-a-half. We’re hoping with more advertising, more people will take it up.”
‘Every pothole puts your rear end at risk’
BY ALISTAIR GRANT
First, a confession. I’ve never actually ridden a bike on the streets of Edinburgh before. It’s bad enough driving around the city centre, let alone braving the Haymarket crush on two wheels.
But the new Abellio bikes are reassuringly sturdy, boasting tough-looking frames and seven different gears to work your way through – four more than London’s Boris Bikes.
And with ample facilities for storing your luggage, the Bike & Go scheme could fast become a hit among the Capital’s environmentally-conscious commuters.
The downside of all this is that the bikes are also really heavy, making them incredibly difficult to manoeuvre once you’re off the saddle.
And while we’re on the topic, the saddle itself could do with a bit more padding – at the moment every pothole seems to put your rear end at risk.
But all in all, the bikes look good and do their job well. Here’s hoping they catch on.