Edinburgh cycle hire scheme is going downhill - literally, as users coast down city's hills but avoid riding up them

Serco, operators of the Just Eat Cycles scheme, plan to introduce electric bikes to Scottish capital

Users of Edinburgh’s cycle hire scheme are coasting downhill on its bikes – but are less keen on climbing back up them, leading operators to plan to introduce electric bikes.

The Just Eats Cycles scheme was launched in the Scottish capital last September by round-the-world cyclist Mark Beaumont.

The Scotsman reports that according to operators Serco – which also runs the Santander Cycles scheme in London – many bikes are being dropped off in low-lying parts of the city such as Leith Links in the city’s docks district.

From there, it is uphill to Princes Street, Edinburgh’s main shopping street at the southern end of the New Town, which is 74 metres above sea level. The Old Town, meanwhile, has a maximum elevation of 130 metres.

It’s a similar problem to one that has been encountered by the Vélib' scheme in Paris, which was launched in 2007.

Docking stations in higher-lying parts of the French capital would need to be restocked overnight due to people riding the bikes downhill in the morning, but returning home by other means in the evening.

Serco now plans to introduce electric bikes to Edinburgh to help people cope better with the city’s hills as the scheme continues to expand before its first-ever summer season, which is expected to see strong demand.

The company said that since the scheme was launched, 100 of its bicycles have been reported as being abandoned, while a minimum of 25 have sustained serious damage and 10 have been stolen and been subject to investigations by the police.

It added that the scale of vandalism was similar to that in London and other cities where it operates.

Charles Graham, general manager of Just Eat Cycles, said: “Our priority is to minimise the effect any anti-social behaviour has on users and we are confident that the new measures we are putting in place, including the relocation of some stations, will significantly reduce this type of behaviour.

“We’re working with Police Scotland to prosecute those responsible, and with the vast majority of stations covered by CCTV, we will catch those responsible,” he added.

Currently there are 49 docking stations throughout the city with plans to increase those to 80 by this spring. Since the scheme was launched, almost 20,000 journeys have been made.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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