A bike loan scheme offering interest-free loans of up to £500 for people on lower incomes received just four successful applications in six months, despite costing the Scottish Government £145,000 to design and run.
Access Bikes Scheme, devised by the Scottish Government to encourage people from poorer backgrounds to buy a bike, ran from September 2021 to February 2022, but during that period just four people were successful in securing the loan.
Figures published by the Scottish Government, following a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Conservatives, shows that just £1804 was issued across the six months. No loans have been fully repaid at the time of writing.
With £145,000 spent on creating the Access Bikes Scheme, and just four successful applicants, each bike loan effectively cost £36,250.
A Transport Scotland spokesperson has defended the scheme, though, suggesting it was a trial which will provide lessons for future initiatives.
“This was a trial scheme," they said. "The very nature of a trial scheme is that some approaches will work better than others.
“When it was clear that this approach was not proving attractive, we worked with the scheme host to bring it to a close and use the lessons learned for future schemes."
The Scottish Government will continue to encourage people to cycle, especially providing opportunities to those who might not otherwise have the money to afford the upfront cost of a bike.
“This was just one of many ways of testing access to bikes," the spokesperson added. "We have a separate commitment and pilots providing free bikes to children unable to afford them, we’re funding bike share and e-bike loan projects across the country, in addition to record investment in high quality segregated walking, wheeling and cycling routes.
“Making sure more people have access to a bike for everyday journeys is central to how we tackle climate change, make our towns and cities more pleasant places to be and improve health. So we will continue to explore and test the best ways to do that.”
However, the published figures have been heavily criticised. Active Travel minister Patrick Harvie said at the launch of the scheme that 500 loans would be available, offered by two credit unions and Cycling UK. What transpired, though, is a what the Scottish Conservatives described as “an embarrassing and expensive flop”.
“It was never likely to succeed. It was aimed at people in transport poverty, but they were expected to pay back loans in just nine months,” the Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman Graham Simpson said.
“That would have plunged people into even worse poverty, so it is little wonder there was hardly any interest.”
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1