Students saddle up on bikes named after iconic Bristol streets in UWE's first cycle hire scheme

Issue date: 08 October 2015

Cycling provision at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is being expanded as it aims to become one of the most bike-friendly universities in the UK.

From this month, bikes custom built to tackle Bristol's hilly terrain will be made available for students to hire for just £50 a year. And they can park them in a new 120-berth landmark cycle station, which has been completed at Frenchay Campus at a cost of more than £100,000.

Both measures will help UWE Bristol continue to increase the number of its students reaching lectures through sustainable forms of transport. Recent improvements to bus services and changes to parking arrangements have already seen roads surrounding the campus freed of 700 cars a day at peak times - the equivalent of five miles of queuing traffic.

The hire bikes have been hand-assembled by Jake's Bikes, an independent business based in Bristol city centre. With robust frames and high-quality components capable of withstanding Bristol's undulating geography and damp weather, they come in two designs named after well-known city streets. The men's version is called Stokes Croft and the women's model known as Park Street.

Participating students – who will receive a lock, lights and cycle training - need not worry if their bike breaks down. Their loaned bikes will be maintained free of charge, with an on-call mechanic on hand to visit a student's home or site of a breakdown to carry out an emergency repair.

Some 120 students have already registered an interest in joining the scheme, which will see UWE students pay a £50 annual charge along with a £100 deposit. The scheme could be expanded if successful.

The new timber and glass cycle station will see an extra 120 bike storage spaces created with 70 lockers at Frenchay. With a total of 800 spaces, the campus now boasts one of the highest concentrations of cycle storage spaces of any organisation in the Bristol area. The facility has been funded with support from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

The opening of the two-tier secure cycle station comes 10 months after the unveiling of the campus' first cycle hub, which has space for 100 bikes along with eight showers, 70 lockers and a drying room for airing wet clothing and accessories. The investment in facilities has been made during Bristol's year as European Green Capital.

UWE's Travel Officer James Morvan hopes the improvements – which will be complemented by the purchase of six electric bikes for staff transport between the Arnolfini and Bower Ashton campuses - will help cycling become seen as 'cool' and spur more students on to consider giving two wheels a go.

He said, “The aim is to get people cycling who wouldn't otherwise have access to a bike. We expect it to be particularly popular with international students.

“Also, we are starting to get a critical mass of cyclists. When students start seeing their friends on bikes, it becomes a normal, cool thing to do.

“With these facilities, our aim is to make cycling an aspirational activity. Having top cycling facilities encourages people to take up cycling, and having extra secure parking gives people peace of mind as well.”

For the hire scheme, UWE has teamed up with entrepreneur Jake Voelcker, who runs Jake's Bikes, based in the Bearpit at the foot of Stokes Croft. The UWE order is the largest the company has ever received.

James said, “We decided to go with a local bike manufacturer as we are keen to support a local business. Jake also impressed us as he has a wealth of knowledge developed as a bike mechanic of 10 years standing and he has designed the two bicycles with Bristol's hilly terrain in mind.”

Jake said, “We are really pleased to be selected as supplier for the UWE student bike loan scheme and fully behind this excellent idea to encourage students to travel to university by bike. It's great to see the commitment from UWE to run a scheme of this kind and the evident importance that they place on sustainable transport options.

“We have been running the business now for eight years but manufacturing for just two years and this contract has given us a real kick start. Our bikes are solid and designed around practicality and perfectly suited to commuting on Bristol roads. We believe that we have established a niche market for those wanting a reliable bike at a good price.”

UWE Student Union President Jack Polson said, “The scheme is great as it is cost effective, cheaper than the bus and promoting sustainable transport in Green Capital year. I am tempted to give it a try and I imagine that it will prove to be very popular with students.”

The investment at UWE comes as the cycling revolution continues in Bristol, which has seen a significant increase in numbers of cyclists since being named the country's first Cycling City in 2008.

UWE has set an ambitious cycling aspiration for 2020, when it wants 20 per cent of all journeys to and from the university to be made by bike in line with a commitment by Bristol mayor George Ferguson.

The bike hire scheme was launched today (Thursday October 8), while the new cycle station will be officially opened on October 15.

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