Edinburgh cycle hire scheme: Capital's international reputation at risk if there's no bike sharing on offer, claim charity
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Edinburgh risks damaging its international reputation if it fails to reintroduce a bike hire scheme, a transport charity has warned.
The city’s previous cycle hire scheme, run by Serco and sponsored by Just Eat, came to an end in September 2021 after Serco said it would not renew the contract on the existing terms. Now council officials have recommended abandoning efforts to replace it because of huge budget savings that have to be made next year.
But the Capital has been cautioned that with cycle hire on offer in so many places both in the UK and around the world, it could be left behind other global cities if it does not bring back a bike share initiative. Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK), a charity which promotes shared transport – not only cycle hire, but also car clubs and dial-a-ride minibuses –said Edinburgh could not afford to jeopardise its international reputation as rivals promoted communal cycling as a sustainable way for residents and visitors to get around.
CoMoUK said Edinburgh was now the only Scottish city, apart from newly-designated Dunfermline, without a bike share scheme. It said there were more than 40 operating or planned programmes across the UK with 2.8 million members as of March this year. And around the world, there were more than 3,000 bike share systems connecting residents and tourists to businesses and attractions.
The charity said cycling in Edinburgh had increased sharply following the hire scheme’s introduction in 2018, with a 70 per cent rise in the number of trips through the scheme the following year. Rachael Murphy, Scotland director of CoMoUK, said: “The Edinburgh Cycle Hire Scheme (ECHS) was an extremely welcome addition to the Capital, with clear social and environmental benefits for all. Bike share supports health and wellbeing, triggers sustainable travel behaviours, cuts car miles and works alongside bike ownership. It also plays an important role in the movement of tourists, allowing them to explore attractions in a leisurely and inexpensive way.
“We understand the financial challenges facing local government, particularly during the cost-of-living crisis. But simply abandoning bike share cannot be an option if we are to achieve net zero targets and address the issue of private car ownership, which massively contributes to Scotland’s emissions. Edinburgh has a well-deserved international reputation for its festivals, arts and culture, and should not be left behind on the world stage when it comes to sustainable transport. Shared transport such as bike share schemes, along with car clubs, demand responsive transport and e-scooters, are the key to achieving our goals.”
Research by CoMoUK found the growth of bike share schemes across the UK had reduced car mileage for each user by an estimated 3.7 miles every week.
The previous scheme was meant to be self-financing, but major problems with theft and vandalism greatly increased the costs of running the scheme. CoMoUK said potential funding gaps could be plugged through a flexible allocation of capital funding. It also recommended councils explore using revenue raised from policies such as developer contributions, government funding pots and clean air zones. as well as sponsorship, corporate membership, and advertising.