THE use of electronic bicycles has soared in the Forth Valley over the past month.

Forth Environment Link has reported the increase, partly attributable to a free hire scheme for key workers during the coronavirus lockdown.

The free lending initiative was made possible by funding from Cycling Scotland and has seen memberships given out to key workers for the Forth Bike hire scheme.

The charity has also given NHS staff exclusive access to its e-bike lending library, funded by the Energy Savings Trust.

And the e-bike lending library has also been inundated with requests.

Indeed, 32 have already been delivered direct to the homes of NHS and other key staff across the Firth Valley with a further 13 to be delivered.

Sarah Cunningham, an ambulance technician from Sauchie, is one person to benefit from the initiative.

She said: “The e-bike means you can go a bit further and a bit faster.

“It’s been really useful for getting to work and for exercising on my days off.

“I haven’t been on a bike since I was about 14, but I think I will be cycling more after this.”

Another person to benefit is therapeutic assistant practitioner Donna McKinlay from Stirling.

She said: “I received the electric bike two weeks into lockdown.

"The week before it arrived, my mood was very low.

"I’m now using it most nights and to commute to and from work on a Saturday.

"I feel that I have much more energy at nights after being out on the e-bike.”

Free maintenance and repairs for key workers who have their own bikes is also in offer, thanks to Cycling UK.

This includes access to pannier racks, helmets and locks.

Shirley Paterson, active travel development manager at Forth Bike, said :”In the past three weeks Forth Bike users have clocked up 10,000 miles, more than three times the monthly spring/summer average.

“With social distancing measures in place, cycling is proving to be one of the best ways to get around during the crisis.

“As expected, the main usage hotspots are in the vicinity of the Forth Valley Royal Hospital, with Stenhousemuir station seeing the greatest number of hires.”

Ray Burr, active travel co-ordinator, added: “We’ve seen a huge surge in interest from key workers looking to commute by e-bike.

“We’re delighted to have been able to fulfil 32 requests so far and have ordered 13 more e-bikes to keep up with demand.

“The feedback we’ve received has been tremendous, with many staff commenting on the benefits to their physical and mental health.”

Key workers looking to borrow, hire or in need of repairs can email for more details.