Why Sheffielders should stop thinking about e-bikes as just upgraded bicycles

“On yer car substitute, Sheffield,” say the doctors of Sloan Medical Centre in Woodseats, though not in so many words.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 9:50 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 1:07 pm
Staff from Sloan Medical Centre riding up Heeley hills on their e-bikes.

After cheerily pedalling up the 11 per cent gradient of Thirlwell Road, Dr Rachel Savage explained that we need to stop thinking about e-bikes as upgraded bicycles.“An e-bike is a car replacement,” she said.

“I can’t bring my kids in it, but since I’ve had my e-bike, in town I’ve done every other journey on it.

When you don’t have to take other people with you, it really is a car substitute.” Over the last month, six Sloan staff (including five doctors), have borrowed an e-bike on the free Sheffield CycleBoost bike loan scheme, riding over 1,200 miles to work, or on patient visits. “It’s been a game changer for me,” said Dr Marion Sloan, who has used her e-bike on a motor assisted glide home uphill through Woodseats from the surgery at Heeley, and to make visits on the steep valley side. “I was born in Sheffield, and in the past people said Sheffield was too hilly for cycling, but using this e-bike has changed that view for me.

Staff from Sloan Medical Centre returning their CycleBoost loan e-bikes - LtoR Helen Deakin, Dr Ollie Hart, Dave Gardner of CycleBoost, Dr Rachel Savage, Dr Margo Duncan

“You just flip the power level and off you go, all the way up to Norton water tower.” E-bike pioneer Dr Ollie Hart had been blogging about e-biking for over two years before his Sloan colleagues joined in, and he now says he wouldn’t dream of going back to regular driving as a GP.

“Ten of us have used an e-bike now, and thanks to the CycleBoost try outs, six of us are now using e-bikes, whereas a few years ago there were just two of us riding to work.”The Sloan doctors say they’ve moved from cars to e-bikes because it’s better for them to ride rather than drive (even with the motor engaged, you’re still getting basic low intensity exercise, says Ollie), it’s a lot more fun, it’s much much cheaper (12p for a charge to power you up to 70 miles, says CycleBoost’s Dave Gardner), and most importantly of all, it’s practical.“I’m a sports cyclist, so it’s not about fitness for me, but borrowing an e-bike has shown me that it’s viable as a car replacement for a GP,” said Dr Margo Duncan.

“Patients like it when you turn up on a bike, but using an e-bike means you can arrive in your normal clothes and shoes and look professional, not sweaty!” The CycleBoost loan scheme is running until March, says Sheffield CycleBoost manager Dave Gardner, and anyone 18 or over living or working in Sheffield can apply to borrow an e-bike or conventional bike as part of the programme.

Loanees need to complete an assessment with cycle trainers Pedal Ready to show that they can ride safely first, and the bike is theirs for four weeks for a returnable deposit of £50 (or £20 for standard bikes). Sheffield Council have bids in to fund further schemes this year, and should know soon if CycleBoost can be extended and expanded over 2020. “It’s clear now that the idea of pedal powered transport has been fundamentally changed by the growth of modern e-bikes, which can really make a difference to air quality, congestion and the efficiency of getting around in cities like Sheffield,” said Councillor Bob Johnson, who is the city council’s cabinet member for Transport and Development. “All levels of government seem to agree, and if we’re successful in our bids for funding to the Department for Transport this spring, we’ll have a range of options for individuals to borrow e-bikes, and for companies to try out e-bikes and electric cargo bikes.

Ken Woodhouse of Pedal Ready taking a CycleBoost cycling assesmnet at Sloan medical centre with Drs Rachel Savage and Marion Sloan

Our local CycleBoost and Love to Ride schemes have already helped thousands of people and hundreds of companies to prepare for a future where active travel like cycling, walking and running will be commonplace, and this year we’re aiming to move that change up a few gears.” “I met a man on my way home one day who said he was getting an e-bike instead of a car to ride to his new job as a plumber,” said Marion Sloan.

“With these, everyone can do it.” See: www.sheffieldcycleboost.org for more information on the scheme and how to take part.

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Dr Marion Sloan with her e-bike controls
Ken Woodhouse of Pedal Ready taking a CycleBoost cycling assesmnet at Sloan medical centre with Dr Marion Sloan
Dr Marion Sloan from Sloan Medical Centre talking to Dave Gardner of CycleBoost about her e-bike
Dr Margo Duncan from Sloan Medical Centre riding up Meersbrook Park on her conventional bike