A UNIVERSITY-LED electric bike share scheme launched in Worcester today (February 12), with organisers hoping to encourage non-cyclists to take it up as a viable form of transport.

The Woo Bikes scheme is initially being piloted by staff and students at the University of Worcester over the next two years, with 50 e-bikes, but will be open to other employers in the city.

It is hoped the £87,000 project will be rolled out to other parts of the county in the future – with more than half the cost being met by Worcestershire LEP.

Other funding has come from the county and city councils, and the university itself.

Katy Boom, director of sustainability at the university, 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.”

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.

Mrs Boom said: “We know from other bike schemes that we want to reach people who aren’t traditional cyclists.

“We want to go to people who haven’t even thought about cycling, and the fact that we’ve got these e-bikes, it makes it a lot easier, especially if people are a little bit scared.

“At £2 a day, it’s more affordable, it’s cheaper than a day bus pass, so again there’s lots of things we want to pilot over the two years.

“Coming to the university, we’re going to be doing the research, the monitoring, the evaluation,” she added.

Katy Boom, director of sustainability at the university, speaking at the launch

The bikes are being provided by Gtech, while Spokes, a project within the Kidderminster-based Emily Jordan Foundation charity, will maintain them, while Fleet Innovations, in Kidderminster, will provide GPS tracking.

Cllr John Smith, county cabinet member for health and well-being, said the scheme is ideal for those would-be cyclists who “find the initial cost a barrier”.

Cllr Geoff Williams, city council’s place and economic development sub-committee vice-chair, added: “It will add to Worcester’s growing reputation as a healthy and active city.”

Naomi Goldman, 22, Woo Bikes co-ordinator and first-year Geography student, said of trying an e-bike: “I was a little intimidated at first, I hadn’t ridden a bike in a while, and when I heard the guys talking about it, they said it gives you a boost, so it made me really nervous.

“But once you get on it, it’s an assisted ride, so it doesn’t give you too much to do, it’s definitely manageable.

“It’s definitely a good way to introduce people who are new to the exercise because I think it’s kind of intimidating to people who have never really cycled before.”

Visit worcester.ac.uk/discover/bike-share for more information.