The Big Issue - the street newspaper which gives people a "hand-up, not a hand-out" - has teamed up with ShareBike to launch an e-bike (opens in new tab) scheme with the aim of combatting unemployment as well as improving the environment.
The publication, which is purchased by vendors who then sell it on to earn a wage, will launch a fleet of e-bikes across the UK in early 2021.
The Big Issue says it will recruit and retrain people who were previously unemployed to run the schemes. Members of the public will access the dockless bikes by downloading an app and locating the electric machines on an interactive map.
The bikes will also carry advertising. The Big Issue advises councils that it can "drop a fleet into any city regardless of tender while still working with local councils to meet their environmental objectives."
Employees will be tasked with managing the scheme in their local area, and will receive a living wage. Those whose lives have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic will also receive access to services and support.
Norweigan firm ShareBike has operated similar e-bike share schemes across Europe. Big Issue Founder Lord John Bird is currently asking councils across the UK to take up the scheme, and businesses to come forward to advertise on the bikes.
Perspective cyclists can also pre-register to use the bikes, with one month's free use promised for early sign ups. It's not yet clear at what rate usage will be charged, the Big Issue says "prices will be announced soon and will be favourable compared to other public transport."
“We are living through some dark times, with predictions that hundreds of thousands of people could lose their jobs and be made homeless,” Lord Bird said.
"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," he added.
“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.”
Jan Tore Endresen, chief executive of ShareBike, said: “In our partnership with The Big Issue, ShareBike sees a unique opportunity to help people whilst providing sustainable mobility."
Bike share schemes have been successfully implemented in the UK, with London's Santander Cycles the obvious example. However, elsewhere schemes have encountered issues with vandalism and theft, Manchester's Mobike hire scheme (opens in new tab) being a high profile example.
ShareBike has over 20 years' experience in global bike sharing and Endresen said: "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.”
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