AN ELECTRONIC bike scheme, which has been helping Wee County key workers during the pandemic, has been hit by a spate of vandalism.

Forth Environment Link, which last month made its Forth Bike hire and share scheme free to critical staff during the Covid-19 crisis, is asking locals to keep an eye out.

It comes after a quarter of its e-bike fleet has been targeted by vandals, resulting in a reduced offering and repair bills.

As previously reported, e-bike use has surged in the area since the free lending initiative started.

It has helped key workers get around during the lockdown, including Sauchie ambulance technician Sarah Cunningham – thanks to funding from Cycling Scotland and with support from scheme operators Bewegen.

Indeed, 22,000 miles have been clocked up on the initiative's bikes since the beginning of April.

However, e-bikes are being taken off the road due to recent vandalism, according to chiefs.

Shirely Paterson, active travel manager at Forth Environment Link, said: "We've seen e-bike use triple since we launched the initiative on April 1 and the positive feedback we have received from key workers has been incredible.

"But we could help even more key workers with a fully operational fleet.

"At least a quarter of our bikes are currently off the road due to vandalism, reducing the number of bikes available to around 65.

"We're appealing to anyone who sees someone vandalising a bike or docking station to report it to the police on 101.

"If you come across a damaged or abandoned bike, please call our maintenance team at Recyke-a-Bike on 01290 438 290."

Gabriel Patry Desjardins, programme manager at Bewegen, added: "The Forth Bike team is incredibly proud of the impact the initiative has had over the past eight weeks with key workers across Forth Valley taking advantage of free annual membership.

"We're working hard to protect the fleet and maximise the number of bikes available to key workers, but we need the public's help to detect and catch those responsible for damaging the bikes.

"We would also like to remind users that the e-bikes are designed for use on paved roads and should only be used for journeys inside the designated area which is marked on our website and mobile app.

"It's also important to make sure the bike is secured with the bike's cable lock during stops to prevent theft."