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Hi-Bike scheme in Inverness has been suspended as only six of 56 bikes left after vandalism surge


By Federica Stefani

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Ian Mackenzie, Bike Mechanic, holding broken Hi-Bike baskets. Picture: James Mackenzie
Ian Mackenzie, Bike Mechanic, holding broken Hi-Bike baskets. Picture: James Mackenzie

An Inverness bike-sharing scheme has been suspended after a wave of vandalism made most of its fleet unusable in less than a week.

Since Tuesday the Hi-Bike scheme has seen more than 30 bikes wrecked and dumped across the city by vandals, with nine bikes damaged last night (seven at Culloden Library and two at Great Glen House).

This is an unprecedented turn for the scheme, which had not seen any vandalism in the first three years of being operational.

Another discarded Hi-Bike after theft in Inverness.
Another discarded Hi-Bike after theft in Inverness.

HITRANS project manager, Chris Finlay said: “We have been very proud of the scheme in Inverness because there had not been any vandalism of the scheme up until recently.

“And then on Easter Sunday this year, all of a sudden we have seen this massive surge of vandalism which has continued since then.

“We have done a bit more advertising in the springtime, and we had a promotion on, so maybe because the scheme has become more well known, but also be more of a target.”

“Before we didn’t really see that many issues. There was the odd time where once in a few months something on a bike was broken, but that could have been down to someone just dropping a bike, so we didn’t pay that much attention.

“Now we’ve had several incidents which we had to report to police.”

A recent case of vandalism on a Hi-Bike at a HITRANS docking station.
A recent case of vandalism on a Hi-Bike at a HITRANS docking station.

However, they had never experienced a spike of broken bikes such as the one they faced in the past week, which left only six to eight bikes operational of the 56 that were available, making the scheme unsustainable.

Mr Finlay continued: “We had to suspend the scheme temporarily. It’s almost impossible to keep track of how many bikes are damaged. At the moment we are busy trying to chase down the bikes that have been broken and dumped around the city, which doesn’t leave time to assess the ones that we have in the workshop.

“For instance, our technician repaired a bike and placed it back on a docking station at 5pm on Monday night. The same bike was gone and wrecked by Tuesday morning.

“This is only meant to be a temporary solution so that we are able to collect the bikes and make the necessary repairs.

A Hi-Bike found discarded in the River Ness in the last few days.
A Hi-Bike found discarded in the River Ness in the last few days.

“We are also looking into various possibilities to reduce episodes of vandalism, from making adjustments to the docking station so that the e-bikes won’t be so easily broken off the station as well as possibly reducing the size of the baskets – which is however a measure that we know will impact people using the scheme to go to the shops.”

He said that they believe the surge is due to a social media trend.

Although one was thought to be a Tik-Tok craze mimicking bicycle scenes from the 1982 movie ET, with youth found joyriding on the e-bikes, Mr Finlay said these are usually legit hires and are not the main issue with the wrecked bikes.

“I don’t think it’s over, but once we put in the solutions, we hope they’ll give up and move on.”

Each bike costs around £4,500, which means a big financial hit to the scheme in order to replace the bikes that are broken beyond repair.

The recently opened new station at Highland Council headquarters had to close one week after being opened (on Friday, June 14) due to the surge in vandalism, despite becoming the most popular station in less than seven days, as well as the one in Hilton.

However, Mr Finlay said that vandalism issues impacted hit all stations across the city.




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