Get on your bike: Cycle-hire scheme launched in Dumfries, Scotland

8 Sep 2010

Scotland’s first public bike hire scheme that is backed by the Government was launched in Dumfries yesterday in a bid to mimic the success of similar initiatives across Europe.

Under the Bike2Go scheme, 30 bikes have been made available at nine automated docking stations around the town, which users can access on a 24-hour basis by entering a PIN and riding them away.

After a faltering start in the 1960s, bicycle-sharing schemes have enjoyed a comeback over the last five years as cities in Europe and North America have developed security systems to prevent bikes being stolen.

Around 20,000 bikes are available for hire in Paris following the launch of the Vélib scheme three years ago, while 3000 cyclists had signed up to the London bike hire scheme before its launch on July 30.

The Dumfries initiative has been developed as part of the Scottish Government’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme, which has seen £15 million earmarked for green travel initiatives over three years in a number of locations.

The new scheme will be open to tourists and residents alike, with reduced rates available to those who sign up as members. Members will be able to hire bikes for as little as £1 per hour, with the first half-hour of cycling free, while tourists can pick up a bike for £10 a day by using a telephone booking line.

Ian Aitken, chief executive of Cycle Scotland, said the Dumfries scheme would offer people a perfect opportunity for making short journeys. He said: “Two-thirds of journeys made in Dumfries are less than five miles, which is an easy distance to cycle, so the scheme has the potential to provide people with an alternative to the car.”

Mr Aitken also dismissed fears that the cycling initiative would fall victim to the Scottish climate, insisting that Cycling Scotland’s research had demonstrated that people would not be put off cycling due to rain.

The Dumfries scheme is one of a number of initiatives to help the Scottish Government ensure that 10% of all public journeys are made via bicycle by 2020. Several other Scottish councils are said to be interested in developing similar programmes.

It has been launched alongside a £150,000 Cycling Scotland interest-free loan scheme that will help businesses across the country with the cost of installing workplace cycling facilities such as bike shelters and changing facilities.

Hourbike, the company administering the hire scheme, has already set up similar programmes in Bristol, Blackpool and Dublin.

Scottish Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson yesterday said: “I’m confident the people of Dumfries will welcome this opportunity to take convenient, affordable and healthy bike trips around town, and that businesses will be encouraged to promote cycling as a method of travelling to work.”

There have been a number of false starts for bike-sharing initiatives around Scotland. A bike-hire scheme was launched in Inverness in 2007 utilising stolen bikes that had been recovered by the police and could then be used by commuters arriving by car or train to complete their journey into town. Although the scheme has not been technically wound up, inquiries by The Herald yesterday suggested that only one person is actively using it.

A £5000 art project launched in Glasgow in May that saw 50 white bikes released for use without charge – based on a famous experiment in Amsterdam in the 1960s – also had a predictable result. After a week, 30 of the bikes had not been returned.

Pedal projects

Amsterdam: The most famous community cycle programme was launched in Amsterdam in 1965 when hundreds of white bikes were left around the city for people to pick up and return free after using for a single journey. Within a month, most of the bikes had been vandalised or dumped in the city’s canals, though later versions of the scheme were more successful elsewhere in the Netherlands.

Paris: Arguably the world’s most successful bike hire scheme, the Vélib, was launched in Paris in 2007, taking its inspiration from a more radical free bike scheme undertaken in La Rochelle in 1974. There are now 20,000 Vélib bikes in Paris, along with 1639 automated rental stations – around one every 300m in the city centre.

London: London’s first self-service bike hire scheme was launched by Mayor and cycling enthusiast Boris Johnson on July 30, by which time around 3000 people had already signed up for the scheme. Users can pay by credit or debit card, although the first half-hour of cycling is free.

From Herald Scotland