Aberdeen City Council has revived its plans to bring “Boris bikes” to the north-east due to a surge of cyclists in lockdown.
Officials have launched a fresh hunt for prospective firms to roll out a wide-scale bike hire scheme in the city.
Similar to so-called “Boris bikes” in London, the project has long since been dubbed “Barney Bikes” in relation to the city’s lord provost.
A total of 32 locations have been suggested for bike stations, including Union Street, Broad Street, the Robert Gordon University, Duthie Park and Aberdeen Airport. Both electric and traditional bikes would be on offer.
A new public contract has now been published by the council, after an attempt last October did not return applicants who met “the requirements necessary”.
The council’s transport spokeswoman Sandra Macdonald stressed that the project would not have any need for council funds, particularly crucial given the multi-million-pound black hole the council faces given the pandemic.
She said: “Lockdown has shown a real appetite for cycling in the city, and hopefully there will be a similar appetite from bike hire providers to provide a workable and sustainable scheme for Aberdeen.
“We are offering the supplier the chance to operate across the city, but there has to be no cost to the council.
“The timescale was quite tight last time round and hopefully more companies come forward this time.
“The locations extend out to Bucksburn and Dyce, parts of the city could be connected like never before.”
Mrs Macdonald added that the bike hire scheme reflected the council’s wider efforts to encourage active travel and greener modes of transport.
It is estimated that the bike hire scheme will cost between £384,000 and £640,000 to set up and between £153,600 and £256,000 each year to run.
Rachel Martin, of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum, responded tentatively to the new contract.
She said: “While we’d be happy to see a bike hire scheme in Aberdeen we think the infrastructure needs to come first.
“It’s possible the increase in cycling over the lockdown period has the potential to make a bike hire scheme more attractive than it was before but right now not much has changed from an infrastructure perspective.
“A successful bike hire scheme needs large numbers of people using it to make it financially viable but most people won’t cycle unless they feel it’s safe to do so.”
Last night, SNP group leader Alex Nicoll reiterated that and said: “Other cities have managed to introduce and operate cycle hire schemes so it is testament to the administration’s running of the council that they’ve not managed to get this sorted sooner.”
The deadline for tenders is July 29. The company chosen would be responsible for installation and operation of the service.