Cycling in Sheffield? “Not until the day you get rid of these hills,” was what many people used to say.
Sheffielders, that day has come.
“If you use one of these,” said Angela Walker, after breezing up and down the slopes of Heeley with several boxes on her bicycle and a smile on her face, “you’re still exercising, but it flattens the hills. And it’s fun.”
Angela says the new electric pedal-assist technology sweeping through the cycling industry is now a real answer for people who want to reduce polluting car or van journeys and ride a bike instead.
“It really does make a difference having an electric bike because all those hills that seem such a challenge just disappear because the bike takes the strain.”
Angela and her team from the Recycle Bikes social enterprise have just launched the new Sheffield CycleBoost loan scheme with Sheffield Council where, for a small returnable deposit, individuals and companies can borrow a free e-bike or ordinary commuter bike.
Although a standard e-bike does make it easier to fill your bike bags and e-pedal home with the shopping, it doesn’t help you get two or three kids to school, or your deliveries to your clients.
But a growing range of e-cargo bikes does exactly that: rather than struggle up cobbled cliffs with your bike like the famous bread delivery boy, you can now join the handful of local business and families who have discovered the modern way to enjoy the school run or beat any upcoming city centre congestion charge.
Last year, Rosie Frazer of South Yorkshire’s Love to Ride cycling scheme trialled a Dutch Babboe e-trike on her school run up and down the mountains of Meersbrook with her three young children.
“Rather than having to take my son to school and then walk and bus the girls to nursery, I could do it all in one journey. And the kids loved it!”
Many parents who’d like to cycle the school run give up after their second child, said Rosie, due to the difficulties of transporting more than one youngster, often to different places. But putting them all in an electrically assisted machine, and then carrying on to work and using the same tricycle to drop off leaflets (or even transport small folding bikes) made perfect sense to Rosie.
“We got a lot of attention, and I could see lots of people thinking about how they could use an e-bike like this in their own lives.”
They can at least give it a try, is the answer. Recycle Bikes offer the loan of their two e-cargo bikes to families or businesses. Their S-Cargo bikes have room for up to 100kg of load – or two kids – and Outdoor Citizens can give e-cycling a go from £12, said Angela Walker.
Sheffield director of public health Greg Fell said reducing the city’s air pollution is not going to happen overnight, but he believes these kinds of cycling machines will certainly help, particularly as local shops and employers are now gearing up to offer e-bikes on terms far cheaper than monthly car travel and parking costs.
“We all know the answer to our air pollution and congestion problems is that we cycle and walk more and get the bus and train more,” said Greg.
“A friend who visited Copenhagen recently was astounded by all the bicycle-related machines of all shapes and sizes. And that will come here now, I have no doubt about that.”