Council staff discover the benefits of E-bikes

Organisation involved:

Oxford City Council

Overview:

Following a brief pilot with the Electric Transport Shop in Cowley, electric bikes have really taken off as a quick, clean and convenient way for staff to travel for work.

Background:

Oxford City Council has a target to reduce carbon emissions from our estate and operations by 5% each year.  We are also concerned with improving air quality in the city through promoting sustainable transport. With fleet fuel usage being responsible for around 19% of our emissions, we are always looking for ways to get our staff using more sustainable modes of transport to travel at work.  Many of our staff only travel locally, and a large number already walk, cycle or use public transport.  However, for some people, a perceived lack of fitness and/or not owning a bike can provide barriers to cycling at work.

Solution:

In 2011, we found out that the Electric Transport Shop on Magdalen Road was offering businesses a short trial of their electric bikes to local organisations for free.  Keen to see how these might compliment the range of pool vehicles already on offer for staff use at the Council, we ran electric bike trials at our three main sites for two weeks each.  A new Smarta electric bike was promoted to use at each site and staff feedback gathered.  At first staff were reluctant to try the bikes and we heard a lot of ‘that’s cheating’, ‘I don’t need a battery’ and ‘they’re for lazy people’, with little uptake.  The key was getting people to give it a go – once encouraged at events to give them a whirl, almost every person who tried the ebikes was impressed – from hardened cyclists to those slightly apprehensive bike-shy staff.

Outcomes and benefits delivered:

The result of the trial was that we purchased two Smarta electric bikes and integrated them into the pool bike fleet alongside two regular pushbikes.  Staff quickly began to favour the ebikes and reported that they could get to meetings more quickly, were less flushed and out of breath when they arrived and that they were a great conversation starter too.  Our Community Safety team who go on a large number of patrols and visits each day decided to buy dedicated ebikes for their team as they could be a lot more productive and get more visits done, and dare I say enjoy their travels a bit more along the way.

Lessons learned/conclusion:

Electric bikes have proved for us to be a good addition to the sustainable transport offering for our staff travel. It’s difficult to say what method of transport they are replacing in each case and how many people are swapping from car or bus to ebike, but the fact that we now have 8 electric bikes within the Council shows they are gaining popularity.

The key to getting staff to use these is definitely to do events and promotion to get reluctant staff to give them a go. Find an advocate to do your promotion for you – someone who loves them and can share their enthusiasm with staff.  And make sure the bikes are well maintained and easy to access – nobody is going to choose an option that is hard to find or not fit for use.

Link to further information online:

We did our free trial with the Electric Transport Shop who have a wide range of electric bikes available.  Visit their website www.electricbikesales.co.uk/oxford-electric-bike-shop or call Will on 01865 243937

Contact for further information:

Jennifer Carr, Partnerships and Engagement Officer in Oxford City Council’s Environmental Sustainability Team on 01865 252564

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