Pedal power gets an electric boost - shared e-bike scheme to launch in Oxford

The Oxford scheme, selected by Carplus for funding from the Department for Transport, will put 16 new electric bikes into circulation.  Oxford was one of eleven schemes chosen across the UK by Carplus from a selection of 34 full bids.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for transport at Oxfordshire County Council said:  “This is great news for Oxford which is a city famous for its strong cycling culture.  Our OxonBike scheme currently provides 11 stations and 52 bikes, and recently expanded beyond Thornhill and Headington to Cowley and the University Science Area, and now has more than 600 members.

“This successful bid will allow us to extend the scheme throughout the city and give the public an alternative to pedal bikes by offering an electric option for customers that will allow longer trips, encouraging use and reducing pressure on Oxford’s traffic network. Our cycling strategy is a crucial element of Connecting Oxfordshire which is part of our local transport plan and aims to transform the transport network in Oxford, in line with growth proposals in the city 2015-2031.”

Sixteen e-bikes will be added to the popular bike hire scheme run by Hourbike in Headington and east Oxford, in association with Oxfordshire County Council. It is an expanding scheme with new sites being added, in partnership with Oxford’s universities and healthcare providers.

The bikes have small electric motors which boost the riders’ pedal power and will be used in a variety of situations across the UK including:

  • Electric bikes for hire in hilly towns and cities where riding pedal-only bikes is challenging
  • Cargo bikes with electric motors to help hirers transport heavier loads
  • A scheme providing transport for housing association homes in low income areas
  • Tourist areas offering electric assisted bikes on hire to encourage people onto bikes for the first time or back onto bikes after a long break
  • Around one in 10 bicycles sold in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland are pedal-assisted e-bikes; bike hire schemes in many cities like Madrid and Copenhagen now have electric fleets.

What are e-bikes?

The e-bikes used in these schemes are Electric Assisted Pedal Cycles – bikes which use small electric motors to boost the riders’ pedal power and help them ride. The electric motors will not work unless the rider is pedalling (unlike motor scooters). The motors on e-bikes are powered by batteries and have a range of up to 60 miles before needing a recharge. Electric motors help riders:

  • Ride further without getting tired – and without worrying about running out of energy
  • Ride up hills easily
  • Carry heavier loads.

What next?

Carplus would like to support increasing interest in similar schemes in the UK. The project will follow the development of new projects to investigate the potential for shared electric bikes to:

  • Help more people make door-to-door journeys on shared and public transport
  • Reduce congestion, demand for parking and pressure on the transport system
  • Reduce pollution, CO2 emissions and improve air quality
  • Encourage more people to try or return to cycling, and for people to cycle more often
  • Improve health and well-being, whilst stimulating community cohesion.

Antonia Roberts, Electric Bike Programme Coordinator, said:  “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. It’s important for future planning to learn more about the sort of journeys might be appropriate for shared electric bikes and what sort of journeys people actually make using them. We need to know whether shared electric bike schemes work in urban or rural environments and whether the bikes need to be based together, along rail corridors, in workplaces, leisure facilities or residential areas.”

The successful projects include a range of operating models including self-service bikes, point to point hire networks, community led bike pools and schemes integrated with car clubs and public transport networks.