Electric bike purchases pulling people from cars in Sheffield

Three weeks ago, Andy Douglas said goodbye to his vintage pre millennial golf.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 1:04 pm

“It was my mum’s old car, she gave it me when I started work 20 years ago, and I learned to drive in it,” he said.

“I used it to take people to parties when I was designated driver, and it almost gave up once in the Alps on a trip near the Alpe de Huez. It had a tape deck!” he sighed.“It was my first car and I was sad to see it go, but there was no point just letting it sit there on the kerb.”This year has seen a small but growing number of Sheffielders considering their finances, their health and their driveways.“In July my car was coming to the end of its lease, and I had been planning to get another car,” said Amanda Barrett. “But then I decided I didn’t need one.”Amanda and husband Pete Broadwith began e-biking to work in March, and soon realised they were happily doing so many journeys up and down Sheffield’s hills on their motor assisted bikes that the two family cars were no longer needed.“Our car is only used for shopping now or going longer distances to visit family or friends,” said Amanda.Steve Haake has gone one step further.“We had one car between us after the kids left home, we run, walk or cycle to work and we realised we were paying out £50-£100 a month for the car to just sit there on the drive,” he said.

“I worked out if we got rid of the car we’d save £1,000 a year that would easily cover any taxis or train fares we’d need.”For Steve and local doctors Andy and Amanda (and a growing number of people across the UK), the tipping point to sell the family car is realising the practicality of commuting, shopping and other local journeys by e-bike.Recent research from Europe concludes that e-bike users increase their trips on their electrically powered cycles as they get used to their benefits, replacing journeys previously made by car or bus, and quadrupling their average daily cycle mileage.Dr Aarti Bansal, who also runs the Greener Practice initiative for GPs and medical centres, has been e-biking for over a year and is also considering whether her family need to own a car, after she and her husband found they were using their bikes for most of their short journeys.She said: “Now we both commute by bike, the car is just available when we need it, and for many days we don’t use the car at all. Both of us now prefer to cycle instead of drive, as long as it’s not chucking it down!”Professor Haake, who also chairs the City Region Active Travel Advisory Board, says the logistics of going car free (or cutting down from two to one) can be pretty simple once you start talking to friends about the idea.“One friend said: ‘Our car just sits there too, so I’ll stick you on the insurance so you can use it when you need it. So we’re not exclusively car free, we’re just car sharing now.

Dr Aarti Bansal on her e-bike (right) and colleague Dr Honey Smith

"We used the car for three of us to go running in Cornwall, for example. And now two more friends have said a similar thing. I think it changes your philosophy about car owning, which is interesting.”Getting the whole family e-bike ready also helps - Steve and his wife both bought e-bikes under the Cycle to Work discount scheme, and with a set of panniers, the weekly shop is now easy by e-bike because of the help cycling back up the hills.The change in attitude only comes from experience, say the e-bikers, so trialling an e-bike with the soon to relaunch CycleBoost scheme may be an answer.“Our streets are full of cars, so driving a car in the UK is not like it is in the adverts, with cars zooming along empty roads in the Scottish Highlands,” says Steve Haake. “But I defy anyone to get an e-bike, cycle up a big hill in Sheffield and not have a grin on their face.”

Sheffield Council are preparing a new CycleBoost e-bike loan scheme with 185 e-bikes funded from the Department for Transport, which could be targeted at keyworkers, or people on lower incomes.In the meantime, e-bikes can be hired at £15 a day for up to 10 days from Russell’s Bicycle Shed, with the cost of hire coming off any future purchase.And the S-Cargo scheme run by A Different Gear will loan bigger e-cargo bikes for £20 a day or £100 a week.


Dr Andy Douglas on his commute home
Andy Douglas with daughter Isobel
Dr Aarti Bansal
Dr Amanda Barrett with husband Pete Broadwith on a cycle ride to Hathersage
Andy Douglas and wife Rebecca
Prof Steve Haake OBE on his e-bike