Big Issue bike scheme launching in January to provide jobs and encourage cycling

The e-bike team has taken delivery of 420 branded bikes which will soon be on the streets of Bristol

big issue ebike
Big Issue co-founder John Bird with one of the e-bikes that will soon hit the streets
(Image credit: Big Issue/PA Media)

The Big Issue's e-bike team has taken delivery of 420 electric bikes, and is gearing up to launch its new hire bike scheme in January.

The programme will see its first hub developed in Bristol, with a planned expansion to 14 further fleets over the next 24 months. 

The scheme will not only encourage active travel but also tackle unemployment, as the Big Issue will to recruit and retrain people who were previously unemployed and support them back into work to run the schemes - starting with a team of 10 employees at the first hub. 

The Big Issue eBikes’ employees will be paid a living wage and supported with access to services that could help improve their lives, with specific support provided to those who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In order to launch the scheme, The Big Issue teamed up with ShareBike, which already operates similar programmes across Europe. 

Users of the scheme will be able to download an app, view available bikes in the area before using and returning them - with the option to verify the return via a photo. 

There's currently no information on the charges, but The Big Issue says prices will be "favourable compared to other public transport," there will also be the opportunity for brands to advertise on the bikes to bring in extra revenue. 

The programme was first announced in November 2020, so it's taken over a year for the first bikes to arrive ready for the launch of the inaugural hub. However, the Covid  pandemic has had a disasterous effect on supply chains in a range of industires, cycling included, leaving consumers as well as larger providers asking where they can buy a bike at this time. 

Speaking at the 2020 launch, co-founder of The Big Issue, Lord John Bird said: “We are living through some dark times, with predications that hundreds of thousands of people could lose their jobs and be made homeless. It’s been wonderful to come together with a like-minded organisation with a truly innovative venture that offers hope to those facing great adversity due to Covid-related poverty.

“We are confident that The Big Issue eBikes scheme will recruit and retrain unemployed and vulnerable people in local communities and provide them with access to support and services to improve their lives. So by renting an ebike from The Big Issue not only are you doing good for the environment but you are doing good for others too. You are biking for good.”

Jan Tore Endresen, CEO of ShareBike, said: "In our partnership with The Big Issue, ShareBike sees a unique opportunity to help people whilst providing sustainable mobility. With more than 20 years’ experience in global bike sharing we have ensured that Big Issue eBikes offer a comfortable and convenient alternative to fossil fuel-based transportation, as well as providing an affordable mode of travelling around cities in the UK."

Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.


When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.


Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6. 


Height: 166cm

Weight: 56kg