Bike Hire Schemes

Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) has recently issued a tender for a bicycle hire scheme for the city. Living Streets Edinburgh supports bike hire schemes which encourage an increase in cycling in the city. However, unless implemented carefully this could cause considerable problems for pedestrians, especially people with disabilities

We are disappointed that TfE envisages the majority of the fixed parking for the 600+ bikes in this scheme will be on footways. As with all bike infrastructure (cycleways, parking etc), we believe that space for bike hire schemes must not be provided at the expense of space for walking. Narrow, cluttered pavements are unfortunately all too common in Edinburgh; space for bike hire schemes must therefore be taken from the carriageway (road); otherwise, such a scheme would therefore be counter to the Council’s commitment to “Tackle pavement parking and reduce street clutter to improve accessibility” (Business Plan No.27).

We are also concerned that TfE may prefer a ‘dockless’ bike hire scheme; this would allow hired bikes to be left anywhere – including on the pavement – which would mean additional clutter for pedestrians and potentially a serious hazard for disabled people, especially those with a visual impairment. It is hard to imagine a more dangerous obstacle for a blind person than an abandoned bike lying on the pavement. We understand that there has not been a full Equality Impact Assessment on then proposed scheme, which would appear to breach the 2010 Equality Act.

We recognise that TfE has prepared a Code of Practice for a dockless bike hire scheme, which says many of the right things and aims to address the type of concerns we raise here However, we note that enforcement of matters such as the distribution of bikes and dealing with inappropriately parked bikes is, in the first instance the responsibility of the commercial hire provider, and is largely reactive. For example, the Code requires the operator to remove bikes obstructing pavements within two hours. Even if this is rigorously, complied with (which we doubt), the presence of obstructing bikes for two hours is would be an unnecessary and unacceptable inconvenience and hazard to pedestrians.

Living Streets Edinburgh therefore is not in favour of any dockless bike scheme in the city.  We would however, warmly welcome a ‘docked’ cycle hire scheme, which requires bike hirers to pick up and deposit bikes in specific locations (‘docks’) that are located on the carriageway (not the pavement). It may also be acceptable to locate some bike docks off-carriageway, where there are wide areas of public space (such as Festival Square), but mass cycle parking should not generally be permitted on footways.