An e-bike hire scheme is being expanded in Inverness to six new locations – and new bicycles are being introduced which are big enough to haul an adult and three small kids.
Culloden Library, Hilton Community Centre and Charleston Community Complex are getting new e-bikes this month, and Milton of Leys, Smithton, and Merkinch are next in line for the scheme.
The move will greatly increase the number of e-bikes for hire under the Hi-Bike initiative, which currently has 30 bikes at three Inverness locations.
The project started last October when e-bike locations were introduced at Inverness Railway Station, the UHI Campus at Beechwood, and at Great Glen House just off Leachkin Road, where NatureScot is based.
Inverness e-bike rental already ‘really busy’
Scheme operator Hitrans said it is already proving really popular, with membership numbers currently topping 1,000.
Director Ranald Robertson said the three city locations were “really busy” with data showing the bikes have been booked out more than 3,000 times so far.
Inverness train station is the most popular site, but student uptake on the UHI Campus is surprisingly low despite Hitrans subsiding the scheme to keep the cost at £2.70-a-month for students.
Ranald said: “It’s enormously good value.
“The 300 students who are on campus at UHI – all of them should be members and it’s absurd they’re not – we need to push that.”
What’s next for the Inverness e-bike hire scheme?
Under the expansion of the scheme, 20 bikes are being introduced across the three new sites of Culloden Library, Hilton Community Centre and Charleston Community Complex on October 25.
Hitrans hopes to introduce a further 12 e-bikes across sites at Milton of Leys, Smithton, and Merkinch by spring.
And 30 new e-bikes will be introduced to the Hi-Bike scheme through Highland Council’s low carbon travel and transport funding by spring.
In addition, around 10 larger cargo bikes will also be introduced in the city.
It is therefore anticipated that by next summer, there will be 102 e-bikes in Inverness at 12 docking stations, in a scheme costing £635,000.
‘Cargo bikes will be a big hit with families’
A total of 15 cargo e-bikes are being ordered for a spring delivery as part of the Hi-Bike expansion.
At around 30 inches longer than the current e-bikes on offer, these machines can carry three small children or a load of shopping on the back.
Around 10 longer bikes will be placed around Inverness, and the remainder will go to Fort William where the Hi-Bike scheme also operates.
Students pay just half that at £32.50 per year with the deposit waived.
Backlash scraps £100 Inverness e-bike deposit
The contractor is e-bike maker Bewegen, a Canadian company whose bikes are also being used in Forth Bike, Scotland’s largest e-bike scheme linking Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire.
Earlier this year, the company hiked-up its £25 deposit for the e-bike scheme in Inverness to £100 following “vandalism issues”.
This sparked concerns that poorer families were being priced out of active travel but the backlash saw the deposit revert back to £25.