Imagine a world where electric bikes were the main form of transport. Where cyclists were in the majority rather than cars, where infrastructure was aimed at maximising safety and accessibility for cyclists rather than drivers? This is what we’re hoping will be achieved with an anticipated Government electric bike scheme.
What is the Government Electric Bikes Scheme?
Truth is, right now we do not have a clear picture of what it is going to look like. The Government has said that they will “be establishing a national electrically-assisted bike support programme” (gov.uk) but the launch date keeps being pushed back, hopefully we will hear more soon. Speculation is that there could be some form of subsidy to encourage the country to buy an e-bike and replace short car journeys.
The Guardian writes that the government is also considering a scheme to have e-bikes available at popular holiday and day trip destinations as a way to increase e-bike usage.
In Scotland through the Energy Saving Trust, there is already an e-bike loan available with up to £6000 per person available, with no admin fees and repayable over 4 years. Something similar could be rolled out in England and Wales.
The Government stated their intentions as part of their “Gear Change” strategic document, the Government’s plan to promote walking and cycling to battle some of the country’s major concerns: improving air supply, tackling climate change, improving the population’s health and well-being and creating more sustainable communities.
What is the Government’s Gear Change Strategy?
In July 2020 following several months of months of lockdown amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government released a document outlining their plan for £2 billion of new funding that will be spent improving provision for walking and cycling around the UK, with more money than ever being given to councils to make changes to their towns and cities.
According to Sport England (2020) the restrictions as a result of COVID-19 have changed the way we live, work and travel. There has been an increase in those wanting to keep active; cycling and walking being a relatively unrestricted activity, saw a huge boost in popularity.
The aim of the Government’s Gear Change document is to maintain this momentum and ensure this popularity maintains or even accelerates. According to the Government a lack of physical activity leads to 1 in 6 deaths (on par with smoking) and incurs around £9 billion in costs. The hope is that by encouraging the use of e-bikes, it will encourage non-cyclists to get active. An electric bike, such as our Citywave 5G makes cycling and exercise accessible to older generations, mobility restricted or previously sedentary individuals.
The target of the investment is to double the amount of walking and cycling done by the UK population, with the hope of reducing obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health concerns associated with poor air quality as a result of dangerous vehicular emissions.
What else is needed from the Government to support e-cycling?
If rumours are to be believed then a subsidy could drop the price of an e-bike by up to a third! While this is a welcome investment as we would love to see more and more people turning to e-cycling, the government needs to make sure that they are investing in infrastructure as well to facilitate this increase in e-bike traffic. Cycle lanes to be a more consistent feature and separation of cycle lanes from car traffic should increase as well. Junctions need to be assessed as to how best to protect cyclists at their most vulnerable. As well as roads, trains and bus companies also need to be consulted about how they can support cyclists more.
Whether it is a loan or a subsidy or a new method to boost e-cycling, hopefully the Government Electric Bike scheme that is finally announced will boost the e-cycling take up rate and lead to a healthier Britain.