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Blog Post 26 February 2021

How ebikes are helping Scotland’s key workers travel more sustainably

Last year began amid reports of a novel virus spreading rapidly throughout China, and by the end of January, Europe had reported its first cases of Covid-19. Fast forward 12 months and it’s safe to say life has changed in many ways.

Lockdown has become the new normal, as many of us swapped the daily commute for working at home, while visits to the pub became Zoom quizzes. In fact, it was reported in December 2020 that global lockdowns “caused fossil carbon dioxide emissions to decline by an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes” last year. However, while for many of us the advice remains ‘work from home if you can’, for key workers the pandemic hasn’t stopped the daily journey to work and with a reduced service on some public transport, there was a concern that private car traffic would increase.

To help essential workers in Scotland get to work safely and sustainably, previously funded grantees of the eBike Grant Fund were either encouraged to loan their existing ebikes out to key workers, or to apply for additional funding of up to £20,000 to provide frontline workers with ebikes. eBikes would be loaned specifically to key and essential workers during the Covid-19 crisis, offering them an alternative to the private car, and sustainable way to commute. The eBike Grant Fund is funded by Transport Scotland and delivered by Energy Saving Trust.

Here, we learn more about some of the organisations who have benefitted from the eBike Grant Fund and how they’ve been helping key workers – from NHS staff to supermarket workers – travel more sustainably.

Assynt Development Trust

In 2020, Assynt Development Trust helped seven key workers, including local government employees, care workers and ambulance service staff, cover a grand total of 1,058 miles on ebikes purchased using the grant.

Feedback from those who used the ebikes has been positive, with all now considering buying ebikes since they’ve tried them. Some noted how easy they were to use, while one user said it has allowed them to cycle “further and longer than they could have on a manual bike”. Since the start of the project, four people within the community have now purchased an ebike.

Coupar Angus Cycling Hub

The Coupar Angus Cycling Hub helps to get people of all ages and abilities cycling, with the aim to increase active travel and lower people’s carbon footprints.

The eBike Grant Fund allowed the organisation to supply 15 ebikes to NHS, police and fire service key workers for an average one-week period. Averaging 10 miles a day, roughly half of those who used the ebikes went on to purchase one for themselves.

Cycle Station

Not-for-profit social enterprise Cycle Station was set up to help communities overcome barriers towards cycling. Between the start of lockdown in March and end of August 2020, the East Ayrshire-based company supplied four ebikes to NHS and shop workers. There was additional interest for the bikes from Police Scotland and East Ayrshire Council staff.

Key worker Yvonne, pictured below, went on to purchase her own ebike after trialling one offered by Cycle Station, using Energy Saving Trust’s interest-free loan.

Image credit: Cycle Station

Cycling UK

When lockdown began in March 2020, Cycling UK hired out nine ebikes purchased for the Ardrishaig Bothy Project, using the eBike Grant Fund to a range of key workers, including NHS staff, Scottish Canals employees, an education hub and a care provider.

By the end of July, six of the bikes had clocked up a combined 1,496 miles – an average of 249 miles per bike, and by the end of 2020, the Ardrishaig Bothy Project had supported 75 people. The ebikes were loaned out 70 times for a week or longer, and at least nine individuals who loaned the ebikes went on to buy their own. Two ebike events were held to promote the ebike loan scheme, and the project also ran nine ebike confidence sessions, helping users to feel comfortable on the ebikes.

Image: Nurse Neil Brown collecting an ebike from the Ardrishaig Bothy Project. Credit: Cycling UK.

Forth Environment Link

The Forth Valley environmental charity supporting communities to make more journeys on foot or by bike was able to offer ebikes to an impressive 68 NHS key workers, with around 80 still on the waiting list. The project began at the start of lockdown and is ongoing.

Macmillan nurse Helen Upfold said: “The ebike has totally transformed my commute. I’m enjoying the exercise and feeling much healthier for it. It’s been really good for my mental health too. The job I do can be quite emotionally draining and the fresh air is such as tonic!”

Simon Community Scotland

Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, has the highest incidence of rough sleeping and homelessness in the country. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, volunteers with Simon Community Scotland put themselves on the frontline to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our society were helped.

The Street Cycles project is a rough sleeping outreach service in Glasgow, using specially equipped bikes to deliver basic items such as hot drinks, food, clothing and first aid to people in need. In the three months after the first lockdown was announced, volunteers helped 249 people on the streets of Glasgow, clocking up just under 500 miles on two (or sometimes three) wheels.

Image credit: Simon Community Scotland

Transport for Edinburgh

Over in the capital, Transport for Edinburgh was able to lend ebikes to 260 NHS key workers between May and early August 2020. The healthcare workers logged a grand total of 7,956 minutes of pedalling – over 132 hours – covering an impressive 1,474km of ground.

Angus Cycle Hub and Arran Eco Savvy

In Angus and Arran, two organisations used bikes purchased through the eBike Grant Fund to deliver services to the community, such as prescriptions and vegetables.

Angus Cycle Hub’s community services included free bike servicing for key workers, while at Arran Eco Savvy, community volunteers and health workers jumped on ebikes to deliver prescriptions, commute to work and help the island increase its supply of local vegetables.

Bike for Good and Bikes for Refugees

Two organisations who have put supporting essential workers at the heart of their Covid-19 responses are Bike for Good and Bikes for Refugees.

Bike for Good provided bikes to help community workers deliver food, medicine and money to vulnerable people in self-isolation, while key workers were able to access bikes for their commute. Bikes for Refugees has enabled 10 NHS and social care staff members to travel more sustainably during the past year, with some describing the bikes as “essential”.

Steven McCluskey, founder and CEO of Bikes for Refugees (Scotland) explained how his organisation has been able to help people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “With funding support from Energy Saving Trust, we have been able to meet demand and continue to support the great work that key workers are doing in the delivery of essential services that support us all during these challenging times. Feedback from key workers that we have supplied bikes could not be more positive.”

Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action

One charity in Dundee has helped a wide range of essential workers travel more sustainably over the past year. Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action was able to offer six ebikes to people in the community, including two members of the Maryfield Community Policing Team, and a Tesco worker.

The bikes, which included ebikes and etrikes, were used for an average of 2-4 weeks, with one user travelling 140 miles in just two weeks. Another said: “It has made me keen to get an ebike and I have passed on information about it to other friends who are interested.”

Lochaber Environmental Group

This local environmental charity based in Lochaber helps the community reduce its carbon footprint through actions both great and small – from offering free home composting starter kits to delivering a public electric bike hire scheme.

The charity secured funding to purchase a Trek Powerfly ebike, which was used by Ballachulish Community Group to undertake daily rides around the community to check residents were safe and well during lockdown.

The ebike was on loan to the group between 8 April and 21 July 2020, with monthly mileage ranging from 185 miles in April to 248 miles in July. The group also clocked up an extra 300 miles of recreational cycling on the ebike, which replaced car journeys in a 15-year-old diesel car.

So far, the eBike Grant Fund in 2020/21 has awarded £410,600 to 33 eBike Grant Fund projects and £223,000 to 12 ebikes for key worker projects. See full details including all successful projects.