Six years after launching, Dumfries version of London’s Boris Bikes has been pulled from the streets.
The £155,000 Bike2Go scheme was launched back in 2010 but failed to generate strong support over its five years of operation.
Bike2Go was the first scheme of its kind in Scotland, designed to mimic similar setups in London, Paris, Barcelona and Stockholm. Like the pre-existing schemes, Bike2Go aimed to rent bicycles free of charge to subscribers at various locations across the city.
While Bike2Go didn’t succeed in Dumfries, it did inspire a range of copycat schemes across the country. An identical rental service, nextbike, operates in Glasgow and Stirling. ScotRail’s Bike & Go, which charges both subscription and daily rental rates, operates across nine railway stations in Scotland, including Glasgow Central, Haymarket and Kilmarnock.
Last year in October, Dumfries Council removed all bicycles from their stands and set them in storage for the winter. A spokesperson said they hoped to relaunch the scheme in the spring in conjunction with ScotRail’s Bike & Go.
However, we’re now well into April and the stands are still empty.
Speaking to the BBC, a council spokesperson said:
“The bikes are currently being stored following refurbishment. Bike2Go was a Scottish government-funded scheme with a time-limited budget from the government.
“The council is aiming to submit a funding bid to support a voluntary sector partner to provide future support for the bikes, as well as local employment. We are also seeking discussions with ScotRail on the anticipated timescale for implementation of their cycle hire scheme.”
The scheme had operated across 11 locations, including Dumfries Railway Station, the Crichton campus and Heathhall. If Bike2Go relaunches in conjunction with Bike & Go, it’s unclear if any of the non-station sites will remain.
A Slow Decline
Bike2Go got off to a slow but reasonable start back in 2010. However, since then, the council has failed to promote the scheme and build an active customer base.
Back in 2013, it emerged that bicycles had only been hired 2,270 times — an average of 2 rentals per day. Calculated against the original investment, each Bike2Go rental cost an eye-watering £60.
And little, if anything, has improved since.
Sally Hinchcliffe of Cycling Dumfries lamented the failure of the scheme but was hardly full of praise for the scheme. She said:
“It’s a shame that the bikes weren’t more successful, but the few times we have used them in the past we found the rental system very clunky to use and sometimes it just wouldn’t work at all, although most people who actually managed to rent one of the bikes enjoyed riding them.
“We hope that the relaunch will include discussions with local groups about how to make the most of the bikes – perhaps an on-street rental scheme isn’t the best use for them.
“For instance, they could be integrated into Abellio’s Scotland-wide bike hire scheme based at the station, or be made available to community groups for bike rides or loan bikes.”
With Spring creeping on, it’s an important time for the scheme.
One reason for the decline in bike rental is the falling cost of car leasing. With more leasing brokers popping up and vehicle manufacturers getting in on the act, companies like Lease Fetcher are able to offer a brand new car at a fraction of the cost.
And when the choice is between a cold, rainy slog on the bike and a warm ride in a new car, I know which one I’d go for.