Forth Bikes: Scotland's biggest electric bike scheme closes suddenly
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Forth Bikes was supported by charity Forth Environment Link (FEL) and was the country’s first cross-regional scheme, connecting Falkirk to Stirling and Clackmannanshire council areas. Latterly there were 19 stations where bikes could be obtained across the region.
The £500,000 of funding needed to launch the scheme was funded by Transport Scotland, NHS Forth Valley, SEStran and the three councils.
The e-bikes were provided by Canadian bikeshare firm Bewegen. It is understood the company was experiencing operating difficulties and FEL, along with other partners across Scotland, had been trying to find a solution to keep this scheme and others running.
However, this week a message posted on the Forth Bikes website stated: “Important message to all users: Forth Bike is closed. As of now, it is no longer possible to unlock bikes. We will provide further notice if the system reopens. We are sorry for any inconveniences.”
Clara Walker, executive director of FEL said: “We are saddened that Bewegen has taken the decision to close Forth Bike with immediate effect, shutting all 19 of its stations across Forth Valley.
“Forth Bike has proved popular, particularly in the Falkirk area, with over 65,000 miles covered and more than 19,000kgs of CO2 saved this year alone. While there’s clearly an appetite for cycling, rising costs in the wake of Covid have taken their toll on e-bike schemes across the UK with several other projects closing in recent months.”
People could use the scheme by purchasing a membership or using the mobile app – the annual charge was £78 with the first 45 minutes bike ride free. A three hour rental was then £7.20. People could pick up at one station and return at another if needed.
The bikes have a 250 watt motor as standard, and are locked and unlocked via the mobile app.
The scheme was launched in June 2019 at Forth Valley Royal Hospital by then Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick.
One of the first groups to use the new e-bikes were bowel cancer patients taking part in an innovative study looking at the health benefits of active travel.
At the time of the launch, Councillor Paul Garner, Falkirk Council’s then environment spokesman, said: “This exciting project will deliver low carbon travel options for residents and visitors to explore the area.
"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. 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.”
A similar scheme operated by Bewegen in Fort William opened last year but in February the bikes were removed by the company, citing their “operational issues”. They also operate e-bike schemes in Inverness and Edinburgh
Bewegen has been approached for a comment.