Using low-carbon electric bikes to replace car journeys in the Cairngorms

A pilot project aimed at encouraging the use of low carbon E Bikes for local journeys, rather than cars, has been embraced by residents, businesses and tourists in the Cairngorms National Park.
The challenge

Sustrans received grant support from Scottish Government Energy and Climate Change Directorate to establish an E Bike rental network in the Cairngorms National Park (CNP).

The aim of the project was to provide an affordable low carbon transport alternative to cars for Park visitors – helping to reduce the amount of traffic and CO2 pollution in the area – and to help make cycling an inclusive activity for people of all ages and abilities.

Additionally it was hoped that the introduction of E Bikes would help to broaden the CNP’s tourism offer, potentially increasing the amount of visitors in the future and that learning from the project could inform the future roll out of E bike projects in other locations in Scotland.

The solution

A number of suitable routes were identified through the national park, linking up E Bike rental points with battery charging points, visitor attractions, and local places of interest, and a series of digital and printed maps were then produced.

An extensive promotional campaign was  run to raise awareness of the bikes to locals and tourists with the project gaining interest from national broadcasters including the BBC and STV as well as local and national newspapers.

The overwhelmingly positive reaction to E Bikes, both from local residents and tourists means that the existing E bike rental network will continue to be developed, and a ‘community ownership’ E Bike Library initiative for local residents  is being proposed as a possible ‘next step’ to the project.

The outcome

E Bike user surveys reported that 82.9% of hirers rated their experience as ‘Very good’, with the remaining 17.1% rating their experience as ‘Good’.

These findings, combined with observation and direct feedback from E Bike users in the park, highlighted a gap between public perception and the reality of the E Bike rider experience. People perceived E Bikes as ‘cheating’. However, once on-board an E Bike, there was a ‘eureka moment’ when the E Bike’s potential became apparent to the rider.

In particular, people recognised the bikes ability to act as a catalyst, encouraging the use of conventional bikes amongst lapsed or occasional cyclists and enabling a return to cycling where fitness or ability has become a barrier to participation.

Learning from the Cairngorms E-bike pilot has also been used to inform the following initiatives:

  1. SSE E-bike rental scheme in Inverness (Carbon Clever Highlands) – Launch March 2014
  2. Green Transport Strategy for the Highland Council
  3. Huntly Development Trust ‘Room to Roam’ Green Travel Hub bid to CCF - Pending
  4. Edinburgh Universities and Colleges E bike loan scheme pilot (CCF / SESTRANS funded) – Launch March
  5. CNPA 5 year Cycling Action plan, provision and promotion of E-bikes incorporated into the Plan -  Implementation from May 2014 
Want to find out more?

Find out how we’re transforming local travel in communities UK-wide, and making it easier for millions of people to walk and cycle for their everyday journeys. Call Sustrans, Edinburgh office on 0131 346 1384 or email: [email protected]