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Hundreds of key workers get help from Leicester Bike Aid

Image: Rachel Wong

NEARLY 400 key workers have been helped by Leicester Bike Aid since it was launched by the city council a month ago.

Under the scheme – which offers free bike loans for key workers and free repairs to existing bikes - almost 200 people have applied for a bike.

In addition, the scheme has fixed more than 180 bikes for free to help keep essential workers moving during the coronavirus crisis – with some of the first customers being nurses, in uniform, on their way to work at Leicester’s hospitals.

Further recipients have included care workers, teachers, bank and supermarket staff, and food production workers.

Doctor Rachel Wong (pictured) got her free bike last week and said: “This is a fantastic scheme – I am one very happy cycling anaesthetic registrar! Thanks to the team at Leicester Bike Aid, I can get to work during the pandemic.”

To further support key workers, the city council has created two new temporary cycle tracks to make one of the UK’s first ‘pop-up’ cycleways, with other cities following suit. The tracks run along a section of Saffron Lane and Aylestone Road, close to Leicester Royal Infirmary.

The routes – designed to take advantage of the current lower volumes of motor traffic – help cyclists to complete their journeys safely.

Data from the council’s count sites shows numbers of cyclists and pedestrians have dropped in the city centre – as expected while people heed Government advice to stay at home. However, at other count sites - including Braunstone Park, Glenfield Road, Forest Way and the riverside – there is an increase compared to the same time last year, suggesting people are using these routes to commute or for their daily exercise.

And a recent hour-long count of evening commuters using the Saffron Lane key workers’ corridor showed one cyclist used the route around every minute.

Deputy city mayor responsible for environment and transportation Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “Leicester is once again leading the way as a cycling city with these initiatives. We’re really pleased to provide these bikes and pop-up cycle tracks.

“In the longer term, we’re already looking at how our city streets can help to give people safe space for social distancing, so that they’ll be able to support our local businesses.

“This extraordinary situation has reinforced what we already know – that cycling and walking are essential to good urban travel and key in tackling the climate emergency. With Government support, we want to continue to invest in schemes that help people to benefit their health, the environment and air quality by using active travel.”

The city council’s Wheels2Work scheme and grants for businesses to help more of their employees choose active travel are continuing despite the lockdown. Twelve Wheels2Work bikes – including 10 e-bikes – are currently out on hire, to people studying or working in diverse roles such as nursing, probation, manufacturing and lecturing. The bikes are used to travel anything from five to 13 miles a day.

Expert advice has also been given to staff at University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL), with 79 personal travel plans developed for staff members in the past year, locks and lights provided, a regular Dr Bike session delivered by Sustrans and six walking and cycling roadshows for staff put on by the city council with partners Living Streets and Sustrans.

Colin Moorhouse, Quality Improvement Lead at UHL said: “It’s fantastic to see so many of our staff benefitting from Leicester Bike Aid, through personal travel plans and other support to travel to work via bike. As a trust we offer staff a cycle to work scheme, bike parking and changing facilities and there’s the monthly Dr Bike service. Keeping NHS staff moving and able to commute into work during COVID-19 has been especially important. We continue to make improvements to our staff offers and we will continue to work with partners to achieve this”.

A number of partners have donated their bikes or free bike-fix services to Leicester Bike Aid, including Ebike Centres, Julie’s Cycles, Sal’s Cycles, Northside Bikes, Community Cycles, Soar Valley Cycles & Billy’s Bespoke Cycles. Leicestershire County Council and Leicestershire police have also donated bikes.

The most recent donor is Rutland Cycling, which is providing 50 more bikes for the scheme.

David Middlemiss, director of corporate development at Rutland Cycling, said: “It’s great to be part of Leicester Bike Aid. We’re delighted to donate these bikes to our fantastic frontline workers, and hope that for some it’ll be the start of a lifetime love of cycling. It is truly inspiring to see so many people, businesses and organisations from the cycling community coming together at this time, and we’re committed at Rutland to doing all we can to help”.

Leicester Bike Aid is open to city and county residents. To find out more about Leicester Bike Aid, walking and cycling routes visit the Choose How You Move website.

Donations are welcome – Contact to offer your support.