Published: 8th NOVEMBER 2022

Leading the way with ߣߣƵ' e-bike scheme in Belfast

Guest blogger Sarah Foster Jarden shares how an e-bike loan from ߣߣƵ' Leading the Way project in Belfast, changed how she commutes to work. Hear Sarah's experiences, after more than 30 years of not riding a bike. And discover her top tips for returning to cycling with an e-bike.

Sarah stands outside a cycle hub in Belfast with a black electric bike. She is wearing a helmet and smiling. The day looks dry and fine.

An e-bike enabled Sarah to get back into cycling, and thanks to the Leading the Way programme, she now commutes to work on one.

Guest blogger Sarah Foster Jarden lives 15 miles from Belfast and works at day centres in the north and west of the city.

Sarah's in her late 50s and until recently didn't consider herself as very active.

That was until she discovered e-bikes through her workplace and now cycles to work regularly.

Sarah shares her story with us:

I was keen on cycling for many years when I was younger, cycling to and from school, friends, groups and sports.

As I progressed to college, and to motorised transport, cycling fell by the wayside.

E-bike taster session at work

My employer advertised a Try an e-bike taster session, courtesy of ߣߣƵ' Leading the Way programme, and I signed up.

It was so much fun and reignited my desire to cycle, so I started looking into how I could do this.

E-bikes can overcome hills

I live in a hilly area and I knew this would be a problem for my rickety 50+ knees.

But with an e-bike I could overcome this, making the hills easy-peasy.

One of my routes to work is through the Lagan Valley and the roads are quite busy here.

But when I get nearer to Belfast, there are bus lanes to cycle in, and these make cycling feel much less scary.

I have a round trip to work of about 30 miles.

Though I can shorten the distance I cycle to 23 miles with a short train ride to and from Lisburn.

The benefits of folding bikes

Translink don’t allow full-size bikes on the trains before 9.30am, but they do allow folding bikes at any time.

ߣߣƵ came to the rescue, as they had a folding e-bike that I could try.

It had small wheels and was very swift and nippy around town.

However on my longer cycle home, it wasn't as much fun as the bigger bike.

It felt rather slow and small on the country roads.

Cycling on roads

I found that cycling on roads again was quite an experience.

People driving cars were pretty good in general, and passed me at a comfortable 2 metre distance.

In town, some people walking just stepped straight out in front of me, which was a shock.

I wasn’t quick enough to use the bell on every occasion, but a high-pitched shriek seemed to work.

I urge anyone walking to please look out for silent traffic, as well as motor vehicles.

Sarah with glasses is wearing a helmet and high visibility vest and giving a thumbs up sign while standing beside an e-bike indoors at her workplace.

Sarah enjoys her commute by e-bike, and with the Leading the Way programme she could try both standard and folding e-bikes.

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The e-bike taster session was so much fun and reignited my desire to cycle, so I started looking into how I could do this. Blockquote quotation marks

Sarah's top tips for returning to cycling with an e-bike

If you're considering an e-bike for commuting, leisure or fitness, here’s what I've learned:
  • E-bikes make hills more manageable, but some effort is still required. Remember they're not mopeds.
  • That being said, don’t underestimate yourself and how far you can cycle on an e-bike. Even your first trip could take you much further than you thought possible.
  • Be careful not to run out of battery power unless you feel confident that you can tackle the remainder of your journey unassisted.
  • Cycles have advanced since I had my first bike. Think about what you want and need from an e-bike and make a list. Then try lots of different cycles to find the perfect fit for you and your lifestyle.
  • Hub-drive and mid-drive e-bikes are very different. Hub-drives are great about town and tend to be lighter. Whilst mid-drives will offer more responsive support for longer journeys and diverse terrains, but tend to be heavier. Do some research, try both and consider your needs.
  • Be prepared to enjoy your e-bike. It opened up the world for me. I never thought I could cycle 15 miles in one go and now I can.

Be inspired by Sarah and email dianne.whyte@sustrans.org.uk or call 07812 470791 to arrange an e-bike trial in Belfast.

Learn more about the health benefits of cycling and walking.

Read about how to start cycling to work.

The Leading the Way with Workplace Active Travel project is funded by the Public Health Agency.

It aims to encourage and enable staff in some of Belfast’s largest workplaces* to adopt active and sustainable travel habits.

*Belfast Trust, Department for Infrastructure, Public Health Agency and Belfast City Council.

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