During the summer of 2020, a new campaign was launched across Northumberland and Tyne & Wear to offer a safer and healthier alternative to public transport.
As the lockdown eased over the summer months, an increasing number of people returned to the workplace, making it difficult for many commuters to find space on their usual modes of public transport.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the government has advised that if people can’t work from home, and have to travel to work, they should consider alternative ways to commute.
Tynemouth-based e-Bike company e-Mobilise and North East charity, Rise, offered anyone in employment living within Northumberland and Tyne & Wear the opportunity to use one of e-Mobilise’s state of the art e-bikes for six months, through the ‘e-Bikes for the Community’ initiative.
The trial had its initial launch in Wallsend, which grew to include workers from other towns such as Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland and throughout Northumberland – more people got involved in the programme and swapped public transport for an e-Bike.
Rise is a charitable organisation committed to using the power of physical activity to improve the quality of life for the communities that need it the most in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear by working with partners across a range of sectors including health, education, local government and the private sector.
Through activity and exercise, the charity aims to improve physical and mental health, increase educational attainment and create safer and more vibrant communities.
Soon after the announcement of a UK-wide lockdown in March 2020, e-Mobilise began loaning out its e-bikes to key-workers over a 6-month period, allowing those without a car to stay safe on their journey to and from work.
Rise approached e-Mobilise after becoming aware of the company’s successful e-Bike leasing schemes which it offers to a variety of employers and business parks. In the wake of COVID-19, it quickly turned its attention to the needs of key workers.
Rebecca Bennett, active workplace manager at Rise, said: “As well as providing a healthy and active way to get to work, e-Bikes offer a way of avoiding the need to mix with others on public transport at a time when people are concerned about Covid-19.
e-Mobilise said it was excited to be working with Rise on this new project. e-Mobility Consultant, Sue Anderson, elaborated: “We were introduced to the CEO of Rise, who was interested in the concept of using electric bikes to assist in their mission, which is to increase the activity levels of people who would not routinely exercise.
With Covid-19 advice in mind for those who have to travel to work, people could consider changing their travel habits to walking or cycling. Avoiding the morning rush, for example, helped people socially distance themselves from each other. We were all able to play our part in following advice and helping to reduce the pressure on public transport.”
Sue Anderson added, “I think it’s fantastic that organisations like Rise exist; I think the work they do is so vital. Without these initiatives, a lot of people might not realise that they actually really enjoy exercising.
The management of the charity is really fresh; it’s such an innovative organisation. They’re keen for change and they’re adventurous in the way they go about making that change.
For our existing e-Bike schemes, we already have robust engagement methods in place for reporting, managing and tracking the activity levels of the people who use our bikes, which is exactly what Rise is aiming to do with this programme.”
e-Mobilise and Rise hope the programme has encouraged more people to take up cycling as well as produce evidence to demonstrate the potential of e-Bikes as an alternative to motor vehicles, public transport and walking.
Sue Anderson is confident that participants will finish the programme feeling enthused about the benefits of cycling and see potential for the programme to expand to other areas across the UK.
She concludes: “The campaign was successful, reviews have come back positive and activity levels increased.”
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