One of the Country's largest city-wide electric bike (e-bike) share schemes launches in Worcester, thanks to a partnership between local organisations.
The Woo Bikes scheme is initially being piloted by staff and students at the University of Worcester but will be open to other employers in the City. The ambition for the project is for it to be rolled out to other parts of the County in the future.
The scheme is a partnership between the University, Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, Worcestershire County Council, Worcester City Council, and technology firm Gtech.
It is hoped that the Woo Bikes will provide a convenient, low cost, healthy option for getting around Worcester.
The scheme will incorporate the University's current Bike Loan scheme, which has more than 60 members and a supply of 50 pedal bikes. The 50 e-bikes, which can be hired for a 24-hour period, are equipped with a lithium-ion battery, allowing the bike's motor to give people a boost when needed as soon as they pedal.
More than half the cost of the £87,000 University-led scheme is being met by the LEP with funds also coming from the County and City councils and the University. The bikes are being provided by Gtech, while Spokes, a project within the Kidderminster-based Emily Jordan Foundation charity, will maintain them. Fleet Innovations, in Kidderminster, will provide GPS tracking.
Long-term, one of the key aims of the scheme is to encourage more cycling. Special events, organised and run by University students, will promote the scheme more widely in the City, with have-a-go sessions from April, and weekly taster sessions on campus to encourage the University community to sign up.
Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "The Woo Bikes scheme is a fantastic initiative that is already drawing support from local Worcestershire businesses in a unique collaboration. We are delighted to have invested in this scheme to provide the city with access to Gtech's innovative sustainable transport."
Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability at the University of Worcester, said: "We are delighted to offer these e-bikes to our students and staff as a convenient, fun and healthy means of travelling and to lead on such a significant project for the City. Our students have been assisting with this exciting project, which also builds on our reputation for and shows our commitment to sustainability, having been rated as one of the top five green universities in the country in a recent survey."
Cllr John Smith, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Health and Well-being at Worcestershire County Council, said: "Cycle hire schemes can be a good way to encourage cycling, for people who want to gain confidence on the roads or find the initial cost to be a barrier. This project, incorporating easy-to-use electric bikes, will give people a convenient, low cost option for getting around Worcester. It can also increase people's fitness levels which will help with their overall health and well-being."
Cllr Geoff Williams, Worcester City Council's Place and Economic Development Sub-Committee Vice-Chair, said: "The City Council is proud to have played a part in this innovative scheme to give residents and visitors more choice in how they travel around our city. It will add to Worcester's growing reputation as a healthy and active city."
Nick Grey, Founder of Gtech, said: "I really like this idea. It's great to see people working together from several organisations with the shared aim of improving the transport of the city in a forward-looking environmentally friendly way. It helps us at Gtech too. We like as many people as possible to try e-bikes, so a personal thank you from me, to all involved."
For further information on Woo Bikes, visit www.worcester.ac.uk/discover/bike-share.