Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Lewisham Bicycle loan scheme

In March this year as the Bike shed was starting to get busy for the season ahead, I received a phone call from a chap called Simon White who is the MD for a company called Active Cycle Projects. He wanted to talk to me about a project he was working on with a view to using my services.  So we met up at a well known coffee chain in Tonbridge for a chat and of course a caffeine fix. Simons background was varied but having recently left "On Your Bike" at london Bridge, he started up his business looking at a range of projects within the cycle industry primarily to encourage people to get involved in cycling and riding bikes.

Working with the london Cycling campaign and Lewisham council  the Lewisham Bicycle loan scheme was born out of a small pilot project in Greenwich. The idea behind the scheme is to offer people the chance to try a bike for a month and see if it fits in with their lifestyle or indeed more promisingly that they change their lifestyle to one that fits a bicycle. The cost? Well its a nominal fee of ten pounds which gets the individual, membership to the London Cycling Campaign  to provide third party insurance and all the other benefits that are offered.  Part of the scheme includes free cycle lessons for those that want them, so from beginners through to the more experienced, there is a chance to brush up skills or indeed learn to ride a bike for the first time. After the month is up they can either purchase the bike through the scheme or return it. A further integral part of the scheme and importantly to gather evidence to support the project, each person loaning a bike has to fill in a weekly questionnaire detailing how they have used the bike, what they liked about it and what they didn't like and so on.

 During my first meeting with Simon I was struck with his enthusiasm and indeed the ethos behind the scheme. I felt it very much fitted in with my own and how I wanted Bobs Bike Shed to progress. Part of our discussion focused on cycling infrastructure and the large costs involved. Interestingly whilst up and down the UK, local authorities are bidding for funding to improve the infrastructure, it doesn't necessarily follow that cyclists will use it. However by using small amounts of funding and giving people the chance to try a bike before they have to commit money on something they may end up not using, you are beginning to alter peoples behaviour and indeed, the evidence  Simon is collecting seems to back this up.

As a result of that first meeting I have been involved in the project, building the initial fleet of bikes, attending the loan sessions, talking people through their bikes and then maintaining them once there returned. I have been struck by the enthusiasm of each person attending, happy smiling people who are so excited to be cycling, you cannot help but smile with them as they cycle off up the road. One particular example was a Lady who hadn't cycled for 2 years following a serious accident on her Road bike, saw the scheme and thought its was an ideal chance to see if she could get back on a bike again.  Yes...... she did!
 Simon and the LCC are  currently in discussions with other London boroughs that are showing a lot of interest in what we are doing in Lewisham, who knows what that may lead too, but if the success of this project is anything to go by we could very well be coming to a town near you soon.

Part of the fleet for lewisham

Building bikes

A growing fleet of bikes

All lined up ready to ship up to lewisham

Our first Loan location at the now defunct Lewisham  ladywell leisure centre

Our current location,  Ladywell athletics track

A bit of protection from the sun

All ready for loaning out