Ride an electric bike for free: Government scheme could offer cost-free bikes to millions

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Ever fancied riding an electric bike, but don’t feel like shelling out between £600-£3,000 on a brand-new model on the off-chance that you really like it? Fortunately, the UK Government might have the solution. To help boost sales of electric bikes across the UK, the Government is looking into funding an “opportunity to try” scheme for electric bikes.

According to The Guardian, this new Government-funded scheme will look to target popular holiday and day trip destinations and large-scale events to offer the most people a chance to ride on a pedal-assist bike. Research suggests that electric bikes will help replace cars on shorter journeys, with riders enjoying a number of health benefits compared to driving.

Electric bikes have enjoyed a boom since the first national lockdown, with data from the Bicycle Association suggesting that sales grew 67 percent last year alone. However, the UK is still way behind its closest European neighbours. And with thousands allocated for improvements to cycle lanes across towns and cities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government is keen to strike with the iron is hot.

Electric bikes use a battery-powered motor to make pedalling a little easier. Pricier models use sensors that measure the force applied to the pedal to judge how much help – if at all – you need. Under UK law, electric bikes can’t boost your speed beyond 15.5mph (25 km/h) so you don’t expect it to replace your motorbike anytime soon.

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However, research has proven that riders with electric bikes are more likely to use their cycle more frequently and attempt longer journeys because of the extra push available to them, if they begin to struggle miles from home.

Department for Transport (DfT) is keen on the idea of providing an “opportunity to try” model because once people experience riding an electric bike for the first time, they are far more likely to buy one. A similar scheme is credited for a boom in e-bike sales across Switzerland.

The Government is believed to be seeking a delivery partner “to purchase all the bikes and run all the events”, with a scheme set to be up-and-running this summer, although the final locations have yet to be confirmed.

And that’s not all.

To further fuel sales, the Government is looking to fund an e-bike purchase subsidy as well as loan schemes.

Bicycle Association executive director Steve Garidis said: “I certainly still think this model has a lot going for it in terms of introducing new people to e-bikes, in an environment in which they may be more comfortable to try a new activity, and which can form a fun part of a holiday. There is a direct benefit at the tourist location if this cuts short trips.”

Cycling minister Chris Heaton-Harris confirmed: “E-cycles could be hugely important to our goal of bringing non-traditional groups to cycling including older and disabled people. We are establishing a national e-bike support programme, which could include loans, ‘opportunity to try’ schemes, subsidies, or other financial incentives, using the learning from other schemes in the UK and abroad.”

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