AN E-BIKE hire scheme which connected the Forth Valley has closed last week.

Once hailed as "Scotland's largest electric bike hire scheme" by a government minister, Forth Bike last week announced the closure.

According to partner organisations in Scotland, the decision was to shut down was made by Canadian operators Bewegen.

The scheme launched in 2019 with £500,000 of funding but a message to users on its website last week appeared to say it "is closed".

Its website added: "As of now, it is no longer possible to unlock bikes.

"We will provide further notice if the system reopens.

"We are sorry for any inconveniences."

The scheme was launched by charity Forth Environment Link and partners (FEL) with 120 e-bikes and most recently 19 stations in what was the UK's first cross-regional e-bike project.

Those behind the charity expressed disappointment at the closure, the scheme having connected Clackmannanshire, Stirling and Falkirk.

Clara Walker, executive director of FEL said: "We are saddened that Bewegen has taken the decision to close Forth Bike with immediate effect, shutting all 19 of its stations across Forth Valley.

"Forth Bike has proved popular, particularly in the Falkirk area, with over 65,000 miles covered and more than 19,000kgs of CO2 saved this year alone.

"While there's clearly an appetite for cycling, rising costs in the wake of Covid have taken their toll on e-bike schemes across the UK with several other projects closing in recent months."

The Advertiser understands the closure is permanent.

Cllr Fiona Law, spokesperson for environment and net zero, said: “Clackmannanshire Council was notified on 19 May that Bewegen, the operator of the Forth Bike Scheme, was experiencing technical issues and could not confirm if a future solution could be found. 

"As a result the Forth Bike Scheme would have to close. All scheme members have been informed.  

“At present no Forth Bike is available for use, although they do remain in place. 

"The council will continue to liaise with Forth Environment Link, who manage Forth Bike, and are in discussions with Bewegen on the future of the scheme."

The scheme originally launched at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in June 2019.
It sought to overtake city-wide schemes planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh with £500,000 in funding provided.

The financial support came from Transport Scotland, NHS Forth Valley, SESTRAN as well as the region's three councils.

At the time, then public health minister Joe FitzPatrick hailed it as a "progressive initiative" and said it would provide affordable and easy access to modern e-bikes at a fraction of the cost required to buy the latest models.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: "We are investing more than ever before in active travel this year and our commitment to record investment in active travel in 2024-25 remains, despite challenging financial circumstances being felt right across the Scottish budget.

"Our investment in active travel is also more than any other part of the UK at a time when there are Sustrans UK has launched a campaign against deep active travel cuts in England, highlighting that it will lag behind Scotland where per capita investment is many times higher.

"Over the last few weeks we have had very constructive engagement with our funding partners and we greatly appreciate their patience and support in providing additional information and evidence at this time of heightened scrutiny of all programmes.

"That work means we expect to be able to confirm the majority of funding for programmes very soon."

Operators Bewegen have been contacted for comment.