Kevin Hickman, director of the Windrush Bike Project, explains how the initiative works in west Oxfordshire. He also looks at opportunities to try out e-bikes and considers their potential for cutting carbon emissions in the countryside.
From the Thames Valley, up through the Windrush and Evenlode Valleys to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, West Oxfordshire is one of the most glorious parts of the country to cycle in.
And not just for the scenery – with plenty of cafés, delis and pubs there’s always somewhere pleasant to relax and refuel.
Add to that the hill flattening advantage of electric assist and even the most scenic ride can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone, particularly if you ride a larger cycle like a trike, have children to carry, or use your arms to propel a hand-bike.
We were surprised to discover that e-bikes have more potential to cut carbon in rural and suburban areas than in towns and cities.
Research by the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds found that because public transport is less likely to be an option in rural areas, people can have a transport carbon footprint several times higher than when living in a city.
For a district like West Oxfordshire, which according to the 2011 census has a predominantly rural population, that makes e-bike uptake worth acting upon where other options aren’t available.
If you haven’t had the chance yet, you can try out an e-bike this weekend.
As part of Oxfordshire’s Celebration of Cycling, the Windrush Bike Project is holding e-bike try-outs in Charlbury at Wychwood Paddocks today between 11am and 3pm.
Tomorrow we will be leading a ride to one of our favourite local cafés via a family friendly route.
The popular ‘Potter to the Pottery’ departs from St Mary’s on Church Green, taking a largely off-road route to Aston Pottery for coffee, tea and cake, returning to Witney for about 1pm.
What about cycling in our urban centres?
Witney has a growing population which the 2021 census will probably put at somewhere over 30,000 this year.
Some of its main arteries are clogged by motor traffic for large parts of the day, impacting negatively on its bus services and making it very unpleasant for people to cycle on those routes.
Without some systemic, structural change to the way the flow of people is organised in the town there seems little incentive not to simply sit in cars and accept the delays.
In a town where it takes little more than 10 minutes to ride from the outskirts to the centre, we think that’s a sad state of affairs.
While the Windrush Bike Project is not in a position to make the necessary changes, we can show you routes which circumvent the traffic and advise you on your concerns.
So this year, as part of World Car Free Day on Wednesday, September 22, we’ll be offering buddy rides for people who want to try cycling that morning.
And to celebrate that first step, or revolution, the town council would like to offer you a free drink at the Corn Exchange to show its thanks for making a cleaner, greener journey.
To find out more and to take part in one of our Celebration of Cycling events, go to: windrushbikeproject.uk/events.
Windrush Bike Project CIC is a not-for-profit social enterprise. Its team of staff and volunteers help people from all walks of life to make everyday journeys by bike and learn about bike mechanics.