Cycling is an obvious solution to getting around a small bustling city. The wind in your hair, the freedom to to move, the simplicity of the machine. On the hottest day this year I had a city bike adventure on the new ‘Just Eat’ hire bikes. These hire bikes are not like normal bicycles – they’re robust enough to live on the street, supposedly vandal and weather-proof. This means they are heavy, very heavy. I’m a pretty fit cyclist and set myself the challenge of cycling up to town from Leith Walk as quickly as possible. On the hottest day. It was a challenge!
Firstly you need to download the Just Eat app to your smartphone. This step is what put me off hiring one in the first place. App downloaded (without any obvious spamming potential) I added £3 to my account for a full day hire (it’s £1.50 for a single hour or £90 for a year). There’s a map of bike stations on the app or website www.edinburghcyclehire.com – simply go to a bike stance with the app open and a bike will unlock. Pull the bike out, prop the bike up with the bike stand and adjust the seat to your height. There are only 3 gears, which are very easy to use. Off I wobbled on the most solid two wheels in town. I opted for my usual route of the backstreets then up Broughton Street. It was difficult to get speed up down hills (I imagine the bikes are speed limited), but it was very comfortable nonetheless. Getting up Dublin Street in the heat was interesting, not easy to stand up on the pedals due to the ergonomics of the design. But I got to the St Andrew’s Square in reasonable time. Docking is easy, just shove it in the stand and your phone will beep to let you know you’re docked safely.
After picnic lunch I wandered to the Castle Street station and picked up another bike. Adjusted the seat to the number 2 position and off I went along George Street. I was wondering whether motorists would treat me any differently on a City Bike sans helmet – they certainly seemed to give me a wider berth! I feel a bit sorry for tourists who hire bikes and are used to well-maintained roads.
After docking the bike halfway down Leith Walk, I picked up a pile of bulky paperwork to drop off at Leith Festival. It was too big to fit in any of my pannier bags, but I managed to wedge it in the front basket of a JustEat bike. Best of all, I think the app might have ‘remembered’ which bike I’d just dropped off, and so I got the same bike I’d docked previously and didn’t need to adjust the seat. But maybe that was a coincidence. The speed limiter on the bike meant my speed down Leith Walk was a gentle trundle, but by then I had got used to a more leisurely cycling pace. I struggled to dock the bike at Kirkgate as many of the docks were vandalised. It also took me awhile to figure out that the bikes dock one way only in the stand (it’s not obvious) but I didn’t want to leave it unlocked. Got there in the end! Paperwork dropped off, I wandered down The Shore and picked up my fourth and final ride outside Scottish Government at Victoria Quay (apparently they’re popular with civil servants). Gears slipping as I swore under my breath, I managed to get the bike back up to the McDonald Road docking station. Upon docking bike, I got straight on the app and reported the broken gears. I have seen mechanics regularly checking on the bikes and maintaining them.
So in all a pleasurable experience. I have my own bike, so am unlikely to use the city bikes (although they might be handy getting back from town after a late show). They’re cumbersome and slow, but help increase numbers of bikes on the road, which is good for cyclists in general. The app tracks where you’ve been, not sure what JustEat use the data for. Ironic they’re sponsored by a fast food business (in the middle of a takeover by another company), but my main questions is just why do JustEat supply them?