New £700,000 electric bike fleet announced by government

Electric bikes in a rack in Madrid Image copyright AFP
Image caption The electric bikes are battery-assisted to make pedalling easier

A new fleet of 234 electric bikes will be available for cyclists to hire at 10 locations across the country.

Paid for out of a £700,000 Department for Transport fund, the "e-bikes" are battery-assisted to make pedalling easier.

The government hopes they will encourage bike use by people who don't cycle regularly or live in hilly areas.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said it was part of a drive to double the number of UK journeys made by bicycle.

He added: "Electric bikes are a great way to encourage new people to get into cycling.

"Cycling helps cut congestion and is a healthy, affordable transport option."

The areas to receive bikes were selected by sustainable transport charity Carplus out of the 34 bids it received.

Tim Caswell of Hourbike, which runs the existing urban bike hire scheme in Oxford, welcomed the funding as a chance to assess the demand for electric bike hire.

A number of the existing hire racks in the city will be converted to include charging points for electric bikes.

Mr Caswell said: "There is less physical effort [in using electric bikes], but there is still a benefit to getting people moving outdoors.

"From a customer point of view there is definitely a demand for e-bikes. Quite what it is, how it compares to conventional pedal bikes and what rental customers are prepared to pay, that has yet to be tested."

On the Isle of Wight, 25 electric hire bikes acquired by Visit Isle of Wight will be aimed at mainland commuters as well as residents and tourists.

Kevin Smith, from the island's chamber of commerce, said: "From an economic perspective, encouraging employees to adopt alternative travel to work schemes will also assist with increasing a company's productivity, as a healthy workforce supports a healthy business."

The new projects have to be in place by March 2016.

A full list of the schemes

  • Bristol will get 24 electric bikes at four workplace hubs in self-service, card-opened bike lockers
  • Exeter will get 22 electric bikes at railway stations and business parks
  • Oxford will add 16 electric bikes to its existing bike hire scheme run in association with Oxfordshire County Council
  • Rotherham will get 70 electric bikes to expand a scheme offering bikes to the public via a mobile hub
  • The Isle of Wight will get 25 electric bikes at visitor centres in Newport, Ryde and Cowes for tourists and public sector employees
  • Hebden Bridge will receive 15 electric bikes for residents, local businesses and tourists to hire from the Hebden Bridge Alternative Energy Centre
  • Various housing developments in the east of England will get 18 electric bikes in low income communities
  • Eastbourne will get 20 electric bikes connecting the University of Brighton campus in Eastbourne and Eastbourne railway station
  • Plymouth and the surrounding area will add 20 electric bikes to an existing hire fleet of 60 aimed at tourists and local commuters
  • The New Forest's Pedall scheme will receive four adapted electric bikes for less able people

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