The boss of the Aberdeen ebike hire scheme has insisted the initiative won’t be hitting the brakes any time soon, despite a spate of vandalism — and he revealed new locks are being installed.
Last week, 200 ebikes were rolled out across 40 locations throughout the city centre by Big Issue eBikes.
Unlike in other cities, the rental project in the Granite City doesn’t use any physical infrastructure like bike racks.
Instead, it is operated entirely virtually, with users unlocking their chosen ebikes using an app instead.
The acts of vandalism resulted in a great deal of anger online, with some saying the fate of the ebikes on the streets of Aberdeen shows that “this is why we can’t have nice things”.
But Jan Tore Endresen, CEO of Big Issue eBikes, argued the problem isn’t as severe as it appears, and said there is still a lot of hope for the Aberdeen hire scheme.
Aberdeen ebike hire boss says we CAN have nice things, despite vandals
Mr Endresen said that between 20 and 25 bikes have so far been found damaged, and have been returned to the project’s workshop for repairs so they can go back out into the community.
“The situation is a little bit better than it is from the impression you get from reading all the comments online.
“We are not that worried.
“The vandals take off the locks, so to stop that happening in the future, we’re in the process now of replacing all the locks on the bikes with stronger locks.
“So, hopefully, over time this problem will be lessened.
“But replacing all the locks takes time, of course.
“So in the meantime, we hope we can all work together to minimise trouble.
“This is a unique opportunity for the council, the police, and the citizens of Aberdeen to show we can have something nice here, it is possible to succeed.
“I saw one person saying nothing nice can ever happen in Aberdeen.
“We need to prove these people who are saying this wrong.”
Fears for a repeat of ebike hire being stopped in Bristol due to vandals
— BigIssue eBikes (@BigissueE) August 23, 2022
Big Issue eBikes launched a similar rental scheme in Bristol earlier this year, however, it had to be stopped due to “relentless” vandalism.
It launched in the English city with around 400 being made available initially.
But after just six months, only around 200 bikes were usable, and the project was brought to a halt, as the cost and time required for repairs became unsustainable.
When asked if there could be a similar situation in Aberdeen eventually, Mr Endresen said “it’s too early to say”.
He continued: “If you see the vandalism picking up, then it will be a problem.
“But what we do see right now is we have more rents than we had in Bristol, where we were competing with scooter rentals in the city.”
Mr Endresen said he has spoken with police about the Aberdeen vandalism, and explained that as he understands it, there are just “a few individuals that are ruining this for the rest”.
He continued: “We can see from the patterns that it’s the same guys who break open the locks over and over again, because the bikes keep ending up in certain places.
“The bikes have GPS, so we can get an idea of the areas these guys live.”