An initiative offering Stirling residents free access to bikes has been extended until late autumn thanks to funding from Paths for All’s Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Local Authority Fund.

In June, Forth Environment Link and Cycling Scotland announced that Stirling’s nextbike scheme would be free to locals until the middle of September thanks to £30,000 in funding from Transport Scotland.

That date has now been extended by a further two months, until the middle of November, following the latest grant awarded to Stirling Council by Paths for All to invest in active travel.

Stirling has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people cycling across the city, with rates up 60% on last year.

Andrea Partridge, Senior Development Officer at Paths for All said: “We’re thrilled that our funding can support innovative project ideas, like this initiative in Stirling, to keep the momentum going. By offering free bike hire, this project is creating more opportunities for more people to enjoy the benefits of being active.”

The scheme supports Stirling Council’s active travel ambitions. Convener of Stirling Council’s Environment and Housing Committee, Cllr Jim Thomson said: “The nextbike scheme is one of the many ways the Council is working collaboratively to enhance our active travel offering across Stirling, and it’s fantastic that we have secured this funding so residents, including our returning students, can use it for free for another two months.

“We have already seen a significant increase in the number of people cycling in Stirling during lockdown and hopefully the extension of this offer will see that positive trend continue.”

Vice Convener, Cllr Danny Gibson added: “Despite the current challenges with the coronavirus pandemic, the climate emergency remains at the top of the Council’s agenda, and supporting the development of active travel across Stirling is vital for reducing our carbon footprint, along with all the health and wellbeing benefits it brings.

“The more people we can get embracing pedal power the better, so I’m delighted the nextbike free offer is being extended until November and I would encourage our residents to take advantage.”

 The free offer for Stirling residents applies to the first 30 minutes of every nextbike journey, as Shirley Paterson, Active Travel Development Manager for Forth Environment Link explained: “You can ride for up to half an hour for free and drop the bike off, or renew for another 30 minutes at any docking station for free; and if you already have a nextbike membership, you can now travel for 60 minutes for free. Removing the cost barrier is a really positive way to get more people cycling for everyday short journeys, especially at a time like this when it’s really important to as stay fit and active as we can.”

Stirling’s nextbike scheme includes 200 nextbikes, which are managed and maintained by a partnership between Forth Environment Link and Recyke-a-Bike.

Speaking of the importance of the initiative to accessibility, CEO of Recyke-a-Bike Angela Baron said: “nextbikes are already a popular way to get around our city and this scheme has only increased their popularity, giving people free, convenient access to a bike without the expense and worry about upkeep. We know through our other Covid-19 response work that more people in our community are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic so this free offer is particularly welcome.”

nextbike UK stressed the importance of cycling during the pandemic to improve both mental and physical health.

Krysia Solheim, nextbike UK MD, said: “We’re delighted that the free cycling offer has been extended. Cyclists in Stirling have clocked up almost 7,000 rentals since the launch of the voucher scheme, which is great considering the absence of university students, who make up a large proportion of our regular riders. September is on track to having the highest number of rentals of the year as people enjoy using the current free ride vouchers.”

She added: “Giving locals continued free access to rides will hopefully encourage them to turn the travel changes they’ve made in lockdown into long-term habits. By making small changes such as opting to take a nextbike instead of jumping in the car, our customers are helping to bring about positive changes that will lead to reduced congestion and CO2 levels, and will also help them to be fitter and healthier.”

To use a nextbike, simply register with a debit or credit card on the nextbike app or at any nextbike station across the city. For security, there is a one-off, £1 fee to register, which can be refunded.

More information can be read at: https://www.nextbike.co.uk/en/news/free-bikes-for-stirling-residents-through-bike-share/

Anyone without a bank card or who needs extra support registering can contact Forth Environment Link for assistance: email georgi@forthenvironmentlink.org or 07923 277624.