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Interest-free loans for bikes launched in Scotland in scheme said to be first of its kind in Europe

Cycling UK has partnered with two credit unions to launch Scottish Government-funded initiative

A new scheme launched in Scotland will enable 500 people to obtain bikes through interest-free, no deposit loans from a credit union, in what is billed as the first such initiative in Europe.

Cycling UK has worked with Capital Credit Union and Scotwest Credit Union to devise the Access Bikes scheme, which is funded by the Scottish Government and will provide loans of up to £500 towards the cost of a bike.

No upfront payments are needed and repayments are structured so as to be manageable under the scheme, which enables adults to buy a new or second-hand bike plus accessories and equipment such as locks and helmets.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of adults in Scotland would be eligible for a loan, with the scheme aiming to help people on low incomes and with limited transport options get mobile.

According to Cycling UK, while 62 per cent of households in Scotland with a net annual income of £50,000 and over have access to one or more bikes, that drops to less than 20 per cent among those with incomes of £15,000 or less.

Suzanne Forup, the charity’s head of development for Scotland, said: “We believe this innovative scheme can make a big difference for people who want to cycle but don’t have access to a bike.

“Many people in Scotland struggle to access essential services or work because they face a lack of affordable transport options.

“We know this exclusion can be tackled through access to a bicycle, but paying for one upfront is often not an option. Access Bikes will provide interest free loans so that people can buy a bike and discover the freedom, convenience and pleasure of cycling.

“For those who need a little extra help, Cycling UK will also be on hand with bespoke support from one-to-one cycling sessions to advice on finding the ideal bike,” she added.

The initiative has been launched to coincide with the start of Scotland’s Climate Week, with the scheme open to anyone who is eligible to become a member of either of the credit unions  - including people living or working in the areas they cover, those who work for 186 partner employers, members of the Community Trade Union, and holders of the Young Scot Card aged 18 and above.

Scotland’s minister for active travel, the Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie, said: “I’m pleased that the Scottish Government is investing over £390,000 to offer affordable access to bikes, in addition to specialist support from Cycling UK.

“This builds on the interest free loan support we already offer for e-bikes, and for the first time, with support from participating credit unions, we are exploring a new route to tackling transport poverty for people on lower incomes.

“Promoting cycling is something the government must do to respond to the climate emergency. To make cycling easier, infrastructure is critical, but so too is affordable access to bikes – and I look forward to the success of the Access Bikes initiative."

He added: “We need to see more innovation like this, and by increasing the budget for active travel to at least £320 million by the end of this Parliament, we will support more projects working to transform Scotland into an active nation, where we make walking, wheeling and cycling is the natural choice for shorter everyday trips by 2030.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc 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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