Commuting: from car-share to e-bike

Commuting: from car-share to e-bike

By Emily Kerr

Emily Kerr is founder of ShareOurCars and Oxford City Councillor for St Mary’s Ward

Tiffany and Dawn work as dinner ladies at a central Oxford primary school. Until this term, they shared a car to travel to work, along with another friend, commuting in to the city from Blackbird Leys. But what they really wanted was to try cycling. Wheels for All, the inclusive cycling charity, loaned them e-bikes for a few weeks to see if it would work for them. And so far things are going well for all three.

‘It’s quicker by e-bike than it was to take the car, and it’s more fun. I can be tired when I get to work, but I try to turn the bike down to eco mode when I go up the hill so I can feel the burn in my legs, and I do feel fitter because of all the cycling I’m doing.’


‘We have a laugh cycling together – and we’re becoming known on our route because we often have a bit of a sing. We don’t cycle every day, if we need to bring anything heavy or if it’s really raining we just take the car. I’m thinking of getting an e-bike of my own, but what we really need is for them to be made more affordable.’


Cycling to work can be good news for your health. The NHS recommends 20–30 minutes of moderate activity a day. E-bikes are a real game-changer, allowing the dinner ladies to commute a 6-mile round-trip in a way that integrates exercise into their daily lives. And it’s a lot cheaper to run an e-bike than drive a car, which is especially important at the moment.

However, there are still barriers to cycling in Oxford, and we need to make it easier.

Make it affordable and safe

As Dawn says, we need to make cycling more affordable. You can buy a second-hand bike for £50, but if your commute involves hills, you may need an e-bike to make it feasible. E-bikes are coming down in price and the ‘cycle to work’ scheme allows you to pay for a bike at, say, £20 per week. However, some people – such as the dinner ladies – are excluded from the scheme because they work in low-wage sectors. This is unfair, and it needs fixing.

We need a cycling infrastructure in which people on bikes feel safe from cars, buses and lorries. The dinner ladies are lucky, because they can cycle all the way on low- or no-car routes, but not everyone can – we need more routes which join up with where people live. Most new housing being built in Oxford does not have good enough cycling connectivity, and this also needs to change.

Give it a try

GRoup of smiling women of different ages and heritages cycling down sunlit avenue

Some people haven’t cycled since they were children, and some never learned. Increasing confidence in cycling is vital for people to be able to get places by bike. Wheels For All runs a session at Horspath Athletics Track on a Friday morning where you can go and try out all types of bike, e-bike and trike, on a safe, soft surface. It’s fun for both beginners and more experienced riders.

The shift to using bikes as a form of transport isn’t just about learning how to ride a bike. People need to know about safe cycle routes, road safety, and how to buy and maintain a bike. The charity Joyriders organises rides to build confidence for women who want to get experience cycling on the roads.

Oxford is a better place than many to try out cycling. But we are currently not inclusive. There are many people who would like to cycle more but face social and financial barriers. We still have some way to go before we can truly describe ourselves as a ‘cycling city’ – with all the great health, environmental and cost-saving benefits that would bring.


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  1. […] need to discover how to use the car less and travel by bus or bike […]

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