The Department for Transport has today announced “Cycling made e-asy” – a £8m scheme funded by the Department for Transport and run by Cycling UK and other partners. The scheme provides free “try and ride” sessions or long-term e-cycle loans. It includes adapted e-cycles and cargo bikes, support and training. It can be accessed online or face-to-face in five pilot locations: Greater Manchester, Leicester, Luton & Dunstable, Hull and Sheffield.
Steve Garidis, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association, said:
The UK cycle industry welcomes this Government initiative to promote everyday travel by e-bike, not least because it marks further official recognition that e-bikes are the most efficient and sustainable of all zero emission electric vehicles.
Many people do not yet know about, and are certainly not familiar with, e-bikes and just how easy they are to ride and how practical they are for everyday transport. For relatively short trips they are more convenient and appropriate than any type of car, solving rather than creating congestion, and space-efficient to park.
Trying out an e-bike is a great way to discover its advantages, and that’s why many UK cycle retailers already offer this service free of charge, along with their professional advice on the most appropriate model to purchase. Anyone ‘e-bike curious’ is always welcome to visit their local cycle retailer and ask for a free test-ride.
So while welcoming this as a positive measure to promote e-cycles, the Bicycle Association believes that the budget for this pilot scheme, which is limited to five centres of population, would have been more effectively invested in a national direct purchase subsidy for over 30,000 e-bikes, for the same outlay or less.
A national direct purchase subsidy scheme is a measure for which the Bicycle Association has advocated consistently over many years. We compiled evidence from many schemes around the world in the 2019 report: The Case for a UK Incentive for E-bikes which we commissioned from independent researchers Transport for Quality of Life.
This clearly showed that in many European countries, governments have dramatically increased the adoption of e-cycling by offering direct cash incentives to purchase, as part of national commitments to decarbonisation, air quality and public health. In Germany, last year around 15 times more e-bikes were sold than in the UK, such has been the success of regional and national Government promotion by cash incentives.
Nonetheless, we hope that this ‘try-before-you-buy’ pilot is successful and will be evaluated quickly, and that its successor is a truly national scheme in which the whole industry can participate.
We do note that in the implementation of this initial pilot scheme, the opportunity was missed to engage the full capabilities of all local retailers to offer test ride opportunities.
The nationwide network of expert bike and e-bike retailers is a key enabler as the UK’s transport system moves rapidly towards a low-carbon, zero-emissions future. As more and more people turn to active travel as the natural first choice for local journeys, deploying the growing capacity of the full network of cycle retailers will essential to supply and safely maintain large numbers of bikes and e-bikes, creating thousands of green jobs in the process.
We look forward to working with Government on future initiatives to support our common goal – to grow the UK cycling market.