A new wave of shared electric-bike services will be launched in England next year as a result of “kick-start” funding provided by the UK government. Electric-assisted bikes encourage people to try out or return to cycling. Planned schemes include services in a hilly area, in a small historic city for transporting heavier loads using electric-assist cargo bikes, and for visitors in a tourist area.
National shared transport organization
The government funding for this program is managed by the independent national shared transport organization. This organization has recently expanded its scope from car-sharing into shared bikes and is keen to explore the benefits of the two modes working together.
“We are hoping these projects will lead to increases in similar schemes across the UK”, said Alistair Kirkbride, director of this organization. “Shared electric bikes make it easy for people to try out different models of bike. The rapid growth of electric bike hire schemes in other European cities like Madrid and Copenhagen has stimulated interest throughout Europe.”
By following the development of these projects, this organization wants to be able to show more clearly the potential market for shared electric bikes, leading to more services setting up without kick-start funding.
“We will be using the data from these projects to find out what sort of people are attracted to electric bikes in different contexts, and why”, said Antonia Roberts, shared bikes program coordinator at this organization, speaking at the launch of the program.
“It’s important for future planning to learn more about the sorts of journeys that might be appropriate for shared electric bikes”, Antonia added. “We need to know how schemes work across urban and rural environments, and whether bikes are best located in workplaces, leisure facilities or residential areas or at railway stations.”
The funding arrangements for shared electric bike schemes
The national shared transport organization has made 11 awards to local authorities and operators to develop the first stage of a shared electric bike network in England. This was made possible by £700,000 funding from the Department for Transport.
Only one small shared e-bike scheme was running in Britain before this funding was agreed, operated in Inverness, Scotland by a non-profit national car club.
Existing government support for e-mobility normally comes through the UK government’s Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), which has a budget of £500 million. To date it has failed to support shared e-mobility projects, and its remit excludes support electric bikes.
What will the electric bike services offer
Most schemes will use self-service bikes. Some will offer more flexibility by establishing one–way options. In a few cities like Bristol and Exeter, the operator of the local car-sharing club will start to offer electric bikes alongside pay-as-you-drive low emission cars.
The Exeter based co-operative has set out to offer an integrated scheme working in partnership with the rail operator, as well as offering electric bikes to its car club members.
What kind of journeys would you use a shared electric bike for? Which locations will best serve these new markets? Will a network of shared e-bikes help to expand the market for other forms of shared mobility? Share your opinions in the comment section.
Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.