Electric bike hire is coming of age on city’s technology parks

PUBLISHED: 14:29 26 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:30 26 August 2018

Martin Clarke. director of development & deputy CEO of Allia, uses a Cambridge Electric Transport ebike watched byhead of business Perry Carroll. Picture: Keith Heppell

Martin Clarke. director of development & deputy CEO of Allia, uses a Cambridge Electric Transport ebike watched byhead of business Perry Carroll. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Cambridge Electric Transport rolls out ebike services

Allia's Martin Clarke and CET head of business Perry Carroll. Picture: Keith HeppellAllia's Martin Clarke and CET head of business Perry Carroll. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cambridge Electric Transport (CET) has extended its e-bike hire scheme to the other north Cambridge business parks including St John’s Innovation Centre, the Business Park and Allia Future Business Centre.

The expansion follows the success of a pilot programme with Cambridge Science Park in July. More than 50 staff members from 20 different companies including Qualcomm, Grant Thornton, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Roku, Amgen and Ultra Electronics have tried the electric bikes to date, collecting them from one of three city sites and returning them at the end of the day.

The three sites available to collect a CET e-bike are Longstanton Park & Ride, Milton Park & Ride and Cambridge North station.

“We have been delighted with the take-up of the e-bike pilot among Cambridge Science Park employees and would like to give the other north Cambridge business centres the same opportunity,” said CET’s CEO and founder, Sean Moroney.

At the scheme’s launch at Allia’s Future Business Centre on King’s Hedges Road, Caroline Hyde, Allia’s managing director of Viability, said: “I had been meaning to try the e-bike scheme for some time: living in Willingham I saw the e-bike free trial from Longstanton Park & Ride to the Future Business Centre via the guided busway – a perfect opportunity to give it a go.

“I was very impressed with the whole process, from the staff on hand to help, to how comfortable the bike was. I will definitely use this service in the future.”

Martin Clark, director of development and deputy CEO of Allia, said: “We have a free one-month trial operating from Allia Future Business Centre until the end of August.

“We’re very keen to support sustainable travel, and as a cyclist myself it’s something I’m very keen to promote. We’re happy to be a bit of a trailblazer.”

Take-up of e-bike hire, which costs between £2 and £5 a day depending on how many bikes you take, has already shown the demand is there.

“Our bikes had 80 per cent usage in July,” says CET’s head of business Perry Carroll. “So we then decided we wanted to expand it for August and we’re now getting 80 per cent pick-up from the new sites.

“We have 30 bikes out at the moment, all GPS-enabled, and we’re looking to expand to 2,500 e-bikes by spring, with 16 or 17 pick-up points.”

The CET model allows you to collect a bike from one of the three sites and cycle to work without contributing to – or being part of – Cambridge’s air pollution issue. You’ll probably get to work faster too!

There are three payment methods after the end of this month: either you can pay for the hire – by day, week or month – yourself, or you can get your site to pay (Cambridge Science Park has an account with CET) or your firm pays for your e-bike use. A CET app is expected to be ready “towards the back end of the year”.

Currently you book by the website. You receive a full care package as part of the service, including roadside assistance and servicing.

Perry describes CET’s service as a “first-mile, last-mile” solution.

“There’s three positive reasons to use this option,” he says. “Firstly, it’s sustainable transport, secondly it offers traffic relief for the city and thirdly it frees up valuable car parking spaces for firms’ car parks.

“All the councils and other organisations have been incredibly supportive and the idea is to roll this model out throughout the city and South Cambs. It’ll take time to work out the hotspots and travel junctions but we reckon we’ll have it up and running by spring next year.”

The one factor that is slightly disconcerting is that the actual bikes are imports. Are there no UK e-bike manufacturers?

“We buy the bikes from Asia,” confirms Perry. “We’re looking for quality – they can’t be the cheapest. That’s why we have a full service agreement.

“But even in this building, the Future Business Centre, there’s someone building an electric folding e-bike and we already have an understanding that we’ll use them when they’re ready.

“I’ve got no idea why there aren’t appropriate cycle manufacturers in Britain, and the Asian market can do what’s needed – offer an e-bike with a light battery, decent range, with GPS that’s quick and easy to charge.

“We would love to be able to source our bikes from the UK, and it would be even better if it was from the Cambridge area. We are open to that and haven’t stopped looking, but right now the biggest thing we can do is open up the market.”

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