Human powered vehicles will be key to business transport in Sheffield

“It’s like piloting a small bridge,” says Theo Doncaster, stepping down from the saddle of his huge metal box on bicycle wheels. Human powered vehicles are set to be a key component of business transport in the new Sheffield, not just for environmental reasons, but because they save time and money, says Russell Cutts.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 7:00 am
Angela Walker of A Different Gear with her S-Cargo e-cargo bike

“There’s no petrol or van insurance, no tax, there are no parking fees or parking fines, and your deliveries are door to door,” he says.“Some organisations could quite easily convert from using a van to using a cargo bicycle.”Over recent months, Russell has been running an e-cargo bike delivery service transporting hundreds of Covid 19 PCR test swabs from a Sheffield clinic to labs in London thanks to a link with the Intercity Railfreight company, who transport small items via passenger trains.The Russell’s Bicycle Shed courier service is one of 26 local businesses benefiting from a government grant won by Sheffield Council to help companies switch inner city diesel deliveries to more logical local logistics using modern e-cargo bikes, which come in all shapes and sizes (from ‘small bridge’ to ‘it’s just a big bike, where’s the motor?’).

For a city like Sheffield, says Paul Sullivan, the city council senior transport planner who organised Sheffield’s Energy Savings Trust e-cargo bike scheme, bikes with a small motor to help transport goods and people up the Outdoor City’s famous gradients are one of the final pieces in the jigsaw to help Sheffield become a city where over 20% of trips could be made by bike.

“E-bikes really do take that topography out of the equation,” he says. “Having e-bikes with a better network for cycling really will get higher levels of cycling to and from work, and at work too.” He adds that he makes the point about incentives for e-bikes in hilly cities to transport decision makers whenever he can.

Wincobank Medical Centre staff with Becca Mews of Love to Ride (right) and Dr Jo Maher (2nd from right)

“There’s a general feeling in the cycling community that a lot of money is being thrown at e-cars and e-car charging points, but there’s very little being thrown at electric bikes.”

Nevertheless, thanks to Department for Transport money won by Sheffield City Region, the council will launch a Sheffield Cycleboost e-cargo bike loan scheme in the next few months for organisations thinking about replacing motor vehicle journeys. Interested parties can join the waiting list at http://www.sheffieldcycleboost.org.

And later in the summer, the council is planning another government-funded scheme for local organisations to buy e-cargo bikes at discount. Paul suggests checking bikes available (at https://www.adifferentgear.com for example) before emailing him at [email protected] to show interest.

There will soon be well over 40 e-cargo bikes plying the city’s trade, and Paul thinks many more small or medium sized companies are likely to be pedalling their wares before too long, not just because it helps cut city congestion, CO2 and air pollution, but because it’s cheaper, and often quicker.

Theo Doncaster with the Tern bike at Sheffiield Station Bike Hub

Among the architects, photographers, caterers, small industries and craftspeople currently using e-cargo bikes are an increasing number of NHS workers.

Doctor Jo Maher is currently setting up an e-cargo bike from the council’s scheme for staff from the Wincobank Medical Centre to make visits (including, perhaps, up and down the Côte de Wincobank Hill made famous in 2014), and colleagues at Dykes Hall Medical Centre are already carrying Covid supplies around Hillsborough on an e-cargo bike.

Russell Cutts has food, coffee, medical and magazine deliveries lined up as a business to business e-bike courier (at https://www.russellsbicycleshed.co.uk/deliveries). The rail link means the humble bicycle can offer same day deliveries to most big cities around the UK, he says, at often half the cost of a driver in a van.

He notes how peaceful the Peace Gardens are now, and doubts many people will want a return to streams of buses and vans.

Dr Helen Twohig (left) & Dr Liz Calllingham of Dykes Hall Medical Centre with their Tern e-cargo bike

“Using e-cargo bikes in places like the city centre allows these sorts of spaces to be created,” he says. “I think those 30 businesses who are using e-cargo bikes so far are flying a banner for the city,” says Paul Sullivan. “They’re leading from the front.”

Theo Doncaster with the Urban Arrow cargo bike at Sheffiield Station Bike Hub
Russell Cutts with his company's large cargo bike
Theo Doncaster with the Urban Arrow cargo bike at Sheffiield Station Bike Hub