Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Multi-million pound plans to create a fleet of hundreds of new electric bikes and docking stations around Leeds – including Armley and Wortley – are set to go before council decision-makers this week.
Early plans have emerged to introduce a “docked, public electric bike hire scheme” in Leeds, meaning anyone could hire an electric bike as and when they need one.
According to a council paper, a network of 630 e-bikes would be located across 140 docking stations across Leeds city centre and inner areas.
While it has not yet been decided how users could pay for the service, the council says it wants to hire an operator for the scheme which would offer “a variety of ways to pay”, including pay-as-you-go, memberships and even using the new West Yorkshire MCard travel cards.
Bikes could be hired and collected immediately from hubs and returned to any other docking station in the city once the rider has finished using it.
It is expected the service would work on a tariff system of 10p per minute which, the council claims, “would provide a 10-minute ride for £1 which could easily cover a trip distance of two miles”, and that this would help deter short journeys being made by bus.
Such a service would be similar to the Santander cycle scheme introduced in London in 2010, which currently services around 10 million riders per year. However, unlike the London scheme, the bikes would also be power-assisted to help navigate the hilly Leeds terrain.
Each “hub” or docking station would be “within a short walk” of any area in inner and central Leeds, as well as at each public transport stop, such as bus and railway stations.
While a list of potential sites has not yet been published, a map of indicative sites appears to show locations as far out from the city centre as West Park, Armley, Wortley, Beeston, Osmondthorpe, Harehills and Gledhow.
A funding bid has been put together by West Yorkshire Combined Authority for £2.4m from the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund to get the work started.
A report by council officers claims the scheme would help “normalise cycling” for more people, adding:
“Compared to conventional bikes, e-bikes have been shown to be far more attractive to a wider set of users including older people, women, people with limited physical strength and people who have limited cycling confidence or experience.
“However, e-bikes are more expensive to purchase than conventional bikes, which can exclude people from purchasing their own. This project will provide the opportunity for people to ‘try’ an e-bike and, if that experience is positive, they are likely to use one again or potentially even buy their own e-bike.
“It will provide a catalyst for an increase in cycling and help ‘normalise’ cycling by dispelling misperceptions around cycling.”
E-bikes are ordinary peddle bicycles with a motor attached to boost power at low speeds, making it easier to cycle uphill and from standing starts. The pedal-assist feature cuts out at 15.5 mph, meaning it is possible to travel faster but without the help of the motor.
The Leeds scheme would be expected to run for around five years.
Leeds City Council’s Executive Board is set to discuss the scheme at a meeting on Wednesday, February 9.