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Electric bike scheme aims to encourage residents and visitors in Inverness to take up alternative forms of travel

By Val Sweeney

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Hitrans hopes more people travel by bike in Inverness.
Hitrans hopes more people travel by bike in Inverness.

An electric bike share scheme aimed at residents and visitors is set to be introduced in Inverness later this year.

The project is being led by Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (Hitrans) to encourage more people to look at healthier and more environmentally-friendly forms of travel for everyday and leisure journeys.

The organisation is advertising a £206,000 contract to set up the scheme which will include e-bikes for the public to use at a series of hubs around the city.

It follows other e-bike hire schemes piloted by Hitrans in Aviemore, Grantown and Fort William encouraging residents to improve their fitness, mobility and ability to get about their rural communities more easily.

Hitrans’s partnership director Ranald Robertson said other places such as Stirling and Falkirk, with comparable populations with Inverness, have e-bike share schemes while Glasgow and Edinburgh have also operated such projects for several years.

"Hopefully, this will bring Inverness in line with other cities by setting up this facility," he said.

The organisation is currently advertising for a contractor to deliver the design, supply, installation, operation and maintenance of the public hire e-bike scheme over the course of the next three years.

"Our trial schemes currently running in Aviemore, Grantown on Spey and Fort William have seen e-bikes made available on loan to key workers for commuting or exercise during the current Covid-19 crisis,” Mr Robertson said.

“We hope to have the scheme, which is supported by funding from Transport Scotland, up and running by the end of the year although this will depend on the response to our tender process and the current movement restrictions.

"The aim of the Inverness pilot is to increase the low-cost mobility options available to residents and visitors, enabling shorter journeys within the city to be made by ebike.

"This in turn will help to reduce carbon emissions, pollution and contribute to Highland Council’s response to the climate emergency.”

The project is also supported with funding from Stronger Combined, an Interreg North Sea Region Programme funded project supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

The other Highland schemes, which are part of European-funded research projects, are operated by Mike’s Bikes in Aviemore, Basecamp Bikes in Grantown and Nevis Cycles in Fort William which each have six bikes for local residents and tourists to hire.

Recent research has shown Inverness residents would like more dedicated cycle lanes.

A survey by Bike Life revealed 81 per cent of people in Inverness think that more cycle tracks physically separated from traffic would help them to cycle more.

The report – the first of its kind in Inverness – also found that cycling was the least safe way of travelling around the city, with 66 per cent of the 1452 residents surveyed thinking that cycling safety needed to be improved.

Run by Sustrans Scotland, in partnership with Highland Council and the Inverness Active Travel Network Programme, Bike Life is part of a wider piece of research covering 17 cities across the UK and Ireland.

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