E-cargo bike hire scheme rolled out in Birmingham neighbourhood to 'cut pollution'

The hire scheme aims to cut vehicle congestion and pollution.
-Credit: (Image: Handout)

An electric cargo bike hire service has been launched in Birmingham aimed at addressing congestion, pollution and parking issues. The scheme, which covers Stirchley and the surrounding areas, was founded by bike repair shop and workers' co-operative Birmingham Bike Foundry.

The group was awarded funding by Brum Breathes and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to set up the Birmingham Gear Shift project, designed to get residents out of their cars and onto two wheels on electric-powered cargo bikes. Hire charges, after paying the £50 deposit, are £50 a month renewable for up to three months, allowing people to try an e-cargo bike 'without a big upfront cost.'

The Bike Foundry's Chris Tomlinson says the scheme particularly seeks to target two-car households, aiming to get across how much shopping a cargo bike can carry and the health benefits from riding one. He hopes customers will choose to buy an e-cargo bike after trialling it through the scheme.

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"When you've got a city with a lot of people using active travel, there's been something done to encourage it," Chris says as he points to improvements made in cities like Paris with regards to encouraging cycling. "The more people see cargo bikes being ridden, the more people will get them."

Chris Tomlinson's partner on an e-cargo bike outside the Bike Foundry, Stirchley.
Chris Tomlinson's partner on an e-cargo bike outside the Bike Foundry, Stirchley. -Credit:Handout

Adella who lives with her husband and three children in Kings Norton has signed up for the service. Adella and her husband don't own a car. She previously rode an ordinary bike with a trailer attached to the back for her two younger children, Freya and Parker, and used buses or taxis for the occasional longer journey.

Her e-cargo bike hire is 'heavier' than a regular bike, but she says she's found it well-balanced and much more manageable than a bike with a trailer, 'especially when going uphill.' "I love it – it's made my life so much easier," she said.

"The electric assist makes difficult journeys a lot more relaxing and I love the fact that using the bike, I'm not contributing to making the environment worse."

David Cox OBE, chair of Push Bikes Birmingham and former chair of Cycling UK, recently bought a heavily discounted Vado SL4 e-bike after suffering bad neck and shoulder aches from leisure rides and says it "has put joy back into cycling" for him.

"They are a game changer,," he said, "even if you're an experienced cyclist. E-cargo bikes are safer than regular two-wheelers because you're more manoeuvrable in traffic, you'e not wobbling when you move away."

Bike Foundry offers all Birmingham Gear Shift service users one-to-one training on the e-cargo bikes, and support with route planning. Service users must store their bike securely and under cover – Bike Foundry is working on installing communal bike hangers to make this easier for people with limited space at home.

Cox praised the impact of Cycling UK’s Big Bike Revival programme to teach adults to cycle or get them back into cycling and calls on Brummies to write to their election candidates to support pro-active travel measures. There have been a host of events across the city for Bike Week this week, which runs until Sunday, including street repair sessions by social enterprises like Gear Up Cycle Hub and New Routes Bike Project.

For Great Big Green Week, happening at the same time, people have been encouraged to ‘swap’ products and activities that produce lots of greenhouse gas emissions for climate-friendly alternatives.