Scotland’s largest electric bike hire scheme has been launched from Larbert, where Forth Valley Royal Hospital will host one of 12 regional charging stations.
The potentially ground-breaking move puts Falkirk ahead of city-wide schemes planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh, boasting a 120-strong e-bike resource to be managed by the charity Forth Environment Link.
The scheme will also be a British first, connecting Falkirk to Stirling and Clackmannanshire council areas in the UK’s first cross-regional e-bike scheme.
An annual pass for Forth Bike, which uses the latest electric bikes by Canadian firm Bewegen Technologies Inc, will cost just £65/year for unlimited journeys or £2 for a single journey.
It offers low cost access to high tech e-bikes across the region from as little as 18p a day. and early sign-ups for the scheme will also be given a free one-month trial.
Councillor Paul Garner, Falkirk Council’s environment spokesman, said: “This exciting project will deliver low carbon travel options for residents and visitors to explore the area.
“The bike share scheme will significantly add to the facilities for tourism and the town centre.
“We are hopeful that more cycle hire base units will be installed in other sites soon.”
The £500,000 initiative is funded by Transport Scotland, NHS Forth Valley, SESTRAN, and the three councils.
Launching the scheme, public health, sport and wellbeing minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “This flexible scheme provides affordable and easy access to modern e-bikes at a fraction of the cost required to buy the latest models.
“This progressive initiative, supported by a range of partners and funded by the Scottish Government, will widen access to the benefits of active travel and increase opportunities for sustainable transport over single-occupancy car journeys for everyday trips.
“This supports our climate ambitions, improves air quality and benefits our health and sense of wellbeing – directly contributing to our objective of developing an Active Nation, where more people can enjoy the benefits of walking and cycling than ever before.”
Executive director of Forth Environment Link, Clara Walker said: “Forth Bike aims to connect communities across Forth Valley, opening-up access to services and employment opportunities by offering a flexible, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to travel.
“E-bikes give as little or as much assistance as you need, making them great for those getting back in the saddle or new to exercise.”
Also present at the Larbert launch event was Alain Ayotte, chief execitive of Bewegen, the Canadian firm supplying the bikes.
One of the first groups to use the new e-bikes will be bowel cancer patients taking part in an innovative study looking at the health benefits of active travel.