Islanders see bright future for e-bikes and active travel

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Arran’s community e-bikes have come into their own during the Covid crisis pushing total miles cycled to more than 10,000 in the last year. And the realisation Arran’s roads do not have to be dominated by cars is awakening residents to the possibility of more active forms of transport with walking, cycling and e-biking all proving popular.

Islanders were well-placed to make the most of quieter roads. Over the course of one year, 18 organisations and residents have been using e-bikes to commute around the island through Arran Eco Savvy’s (AES) e-bike scheme.

Large organisations, including the NHS and Arran Distillers, and small grassroots businesses such as Robin’s Herbs and Arran Green Map have become involved.

In the process, they have reduced carbon car miles by around 10,000. The bikes have proven especially valuable to health workers and volunteers who have been able to avoid public transport.

AES has a strong track record of delivering carbon-cutting community benefit projects on the island in key sectors including food, energy, travel, climate literacy and education. AES also tackles waste reduction through a second-hand and eco products shop.

Last year, Transport Scotland’s Energy Saving Trust e-bike Fund and the Climate Challenge Fund enabled AES to buy 11 e-bikes which flatten the daunting Arran terrain, improve mental and physical health and reduce high carbon travel.

And the change isn’t temporary with more than 25 per cent of riders going on to buy  e-bikes with a view to using them as their primary mode of travel.

Janette Head, who works at the Lamlash Medical Centre and has been using an Eco Savvy e-bike, said in May she had ‘not used her car once during the last six weeks and was buying an e-bike as soon as the crisis is over’.

Teacher Lucy Urquart-Dixon added: ‘The freedom this e-bike has given me over the last weeks has been marvellous. It has kept my head clear and allowed me to focus on positive things like how lucky we are to live where we do.’

Andrew Binnie, cycling and e-bike co-ordinator with Eco Savvy said: ‘The uptake and interest in e-bikes has been astonishing, with demand far outstripping demand. Arran now has a real opportunity to rethink how its transport system works, from how we get on and off the island to how we travel around it.

‘While we are currently developing plans for a shared cycle path from Brodick to Lamlash, it’s important to recognise our roads are already shared spaces. Most of us cycle, walk and drive on our roads so we are all stakeholders. We need to make them much safer for non car drivers and rethink the logic of RET which subsidises cheap ferry crossings and leads to the influx of thousands of cars onto Arran every summer. Covid has created a window for us to imagine our roads being used by more cyclists, e-bikers and electric cars. It’s possible to envisage a time when e-bikes are faster and cars are slower, making them more compatible. The speed of cars is a major factor deterring cyclists.’

A recent active travel survey completed by 900 Arran residents is summarised in the graph below.

With vehicle movements on Arran set to increase by 50,000 by 2030 (Arran Economic Group, 2019), a recent active travel survey completed by 900 Arran residents shows the top three drivers needed to push sustainable travel as the new norm are: 1 Better public transport; 2 active travel infrastructure improvement; 3 climate anxiety.

Jude King, Arran Eco Savvy project manager, said: ‘We have the opportunity to encourage climate-friendly behaviours by making the lower carbon norms more cost effective and appealing through a realignment of priorities and investment. It would be fantastic to see a new level of government focus, investment and impetus at this crucial time in alleviating the climate emergency.

‘With the right policies and imagination, Arran can become a rural leader in active and innovative travel with real benefits for residents and tourists.’


NHS staff on a team bike ride with Holy Isle views. NO_B32bikes01

Simon Thorborn zips off to do a bit of forresting on his e-bike. NO_B32bikes02

Arran Dairies at the start of its month long e-bike stint. NO_B32bikes03

NHS staff at the start of their e-bike trials. NO_B32bikes04

Sustainable travel co-ordinators Emma and Andrew. NO_B32bikes05