A University of Brighton power-bike rental service for staff and students took to the streets for the first time (on Monday, 7 March).
The university’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Debra Humphris, gave the new ‘e-bikes’ a trial run and declared them “excellent and great fun.”
She said: “The issue around sustainable transport and sustainable living is absolutely imperative for not just this nation but for every nation on earth, and the University of Brighton is strongly committed to sustainability.
“If this project in some small way makes a difference to emissions, to healthy living, to transport sustainability, then these are the things we must do. But we must not just practice them, we must research them and to find ways to change our behaviour to a more sustainable lifestyle.”
Associate Professor Anne Mandy, from the university’s Centre for Health Research, was awarded £36,000 to trial a fleet of 10 Electrically Assisted Power Cycles (EAPCs), one of 11 such projects funded by the Department for Transport to “help tourists, residents and workers go further by bike”.
The projects were chosen by Carplus, the non-profit environmental transport non-governmental organisation, which is investigating whether electric bikes are the answer to congestion, transport and health problems. Southern Railway and Eastbourne Borough Council are collaborating with the university’s research which will explore the uptake of electric bikes.
The launch, at Eastbourne railway station, was attended by Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell and Eastbourne Mayor, Councillor Janet Coles. Both trialled the bikes and gave them the thumbs up.
The Eastbourne EAPCs will be available between the university’s campus in Eastbourne and the town’s railway station. Staff members who have completed e-bike training will be given access to an e-bike booking system which will enable them to book one of the ten e-bikes based in Eastbourne station to use while on university business. Staff and students will also be able to sign up to a separate rental scheme enabling them to rent an e-bike for various periods of time.
Associate Professor Mandy, the project lead, said sustainability was one of the university’s core values: “The university's Travel Plan shows that 43 per cent of staff and 21 per cent of students travel to university as single drivers in their cars. The strategy is to reduce single occupancy vehicle transport by 10 per cent for staff and seven per cent for students by 2016 “This project will demonstrate the value of EAPCs for linking rail and university locations, and will lead to more understanding of the role of storage solutions and innovative support services.”
Paul Best, Southern’s Project Manager which hosted the launch, said: “We are committed to promoting more sustainable ways of getting to and from the station and these bikes certainly fall into this category.”
The e-bikes will be stored at the station and will be able to move to and from campus, to be returned to the station by the end of the day. The scheme is also supported by Blacks Bikes bike shop at Eastbourne station car park.
The shop will assist with charging and e-bike maintenance. Eastbourne campus estates and facilities department have also assisted with the initiative.
Earlier research into and trials of electronically-assisted bikes by the university in Brighton showed they encouraged more people to cycle. Dr Frauke Behrendt, Principal Lecturer in Media Studies and who helped initiate the project, said: “This project will demonstrate the value of EAPCs for linking rail and university locations, and will lead to more understanding of the role of storage solutions and innovative support services.”
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “Electric bikes are a great way to encourage new people to get into cycling and I hope this interesting scheme encourages more people to take it up. Cycling helps cut congestion and is a healthy, affordable transport option.
“We want to double the number of journeys made by bicycle. That is why we are also investing over the next five years in cycle training and infrastructure.”
MP Caroline Ansel said the power bikes could revolutionise cycling in Eastbourne: “It’s an excellent pilot and I commend the University of Brighton for bringing it to Eastbourne – where we lead, others may follow. It’s good for the environment, good for finances, good for lifestyle – in every way, it’s a real winner.”
Anna Stefanaki, from the university’s Environment Team, said the team was hopeful the scheme could be the first of e-bike initiatives across university campuses in future.
For more information about renting an e-bike here: http://goo.gl/forms/xFxM3Doa7H and for more information on the university’s e-bike research, go to: https://www.brighton.ac.uk/healthresearch/research-projects/university-campus-e-bikes.aspx To view a video of the launch, go to: https://mediastream.brighton.ac.uk/Play/3239