CYCLING rates are set to rocket by more than 40 per cent if a deal to bring a “Boris-bike”-style cycle scheme to the Capital is signed off this year.
Advertising firm JCDecaux, which won a ten-year contract to provide the city’s bus shelters in November, is in talks with transport bosses to introduce a bike rental scheme for Edinburgh.
The firm runs dozens of similar schemes across Europe, including in capital cities such as Paris, Dublin and Brussels.
Cycling campaigners have hailed the impact of the bike sharing in other European destinations, where cycling rates shot up after tourists and commuters embraced the new service.
Paris and Dublin both saw 40 per cent increases within the first five years.
If replicated in Edinburgh, the increase could see more than 12 per cent of residents commuting by bike – a major boost towards reaching the city’s goal of 15 per cent by 2020.
Ian Maxwell, spokesman for Lothian cycling campaign Spokes, said the scheme would get new cyclists taking to the saddle.
He said: “It would be a shot in the arm for cycling in Edinburgh, because a lot of people who are interested in cycling don’t want to buy a bike outright.
“A hire scheme would let them convert to cycling without making that investment.
“For a lot of people, particularly students, there’s a problem with storage for bikes. I think a hire scheme adds to the mix, and makes it more likely that people will have a shot at cycling.
“The benefit of these on-street cycle hire schemes is that they just make it more prominent that cycling is an option. It is all part of changing the culture.”
According to the city’s own figures for 2013, 8.2 per cent of residents travel regularly by bike, compared to 55.7 per cent who drive.
The scheme also has the potential to help slash Edinburgh’s carbon emissions, with the Velib bike sharing system in Paris credited with cutting CO2 in the French capital by 31,554 tonnes each year. City transport convener, councillor Lesley Hinds welcomed the figures from JCDecaux and said Edinburgh could expect an even bigger return if the cycle hire scheme is realised.
She said: “We’ve been keen to explore a bike share scheme for the capital as a way of continuing to boost active travel and tackle air pollution and we have explored a number of options in recent years.
“There’s a lot of support for it among city residents, who already cycle and walk much more than their counterparts in the rest of Scotland. Although it’s clearly still very early days, this new contract with JCDecaux promises to bring our plans closer to becoming a reality.
“The stats they’ve put forward for other cities with an established bike share scheme are very encouraging and I’m sure the cycling rate would go up similarly here, especially when you factor in as well the ever-increasing investment in cycling related projects the council makes every year.”