Sheffield NHS staff ‘keen’ to swap from cars to ebikes permanently after successful trial

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Health workers have been using ebikes for their commutes and patient visits for the past month and say it’s been a 'game changer'

NHS workers in Birley say they are considering swapping their daily commute from cars to ebikes permanently after a “game changing” trial that has “revolutionised” their working days.

Staff at Birley Health Centre have had access to ebikes for the past month through a scheme run by Cycling UK but it is due to end this week.

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Nurse Dawn Varney says she was sceptical of making the change at first but has been surprised at how easily it fits into her life.

Birley Health Centre employees Emma Fields, Dawn Varney and Sam Fellowes with their ebikeBirley Health Centre employees Emma Fields, Dawn Varney and Sam Fellowes with their ebike
Birley Health Centre employees Emma Fields, Dawn Varney and Sam Fellowes with their ebike

“Before this month I can’t remember the last time I went on a bike,” Dawn says. She lives half an hour’s walk from the health centre and previously drove her son to school before heading into work.

“I couldn’t see how I could fit cycling into my routine but I like to try new things so I gave it a go,” she says. “The change I’ve felt has been incredible.

“I get fresh air, it’s started getting me some exercise and it’s the same amount of time if not faster than in a car because I’m not sitting in traffic getting frustrated every morning.

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“When you do exercise you get an adrenaline rush,” she says. “It gives you a burst of energy to get you through the day, you don't feel as sluggish.”

As well as her commutes Dawn has found the ebike is much easier when she makes health visits in the community. “I don’t have to waste time trying to find somewhere to park, I just hop off the bike and lock it up.”

Dawn has also found that patients and fellow parents at her son’s school have been interested in the bike. “I get comments asking how I find it,” she says. “I think it’s important that in the NHS we set a good example.”

She continues: “I just feel like I don’t need the car as much as I thought I did. Now the trial is coming to an end I’m looking at getting an ebike for myself permanently.

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“They aren’t the cheapest but in the long run I might even save on fuel and it’s better for the environment. If anyone else is thinking of trying it I’d say ‘just go for it’.”

Emma Fields also works at Birley Health Centre and agrees that the ebikes have made it easier for her to commute to work, including tackling Sheffield’s dreaded hills.

“Birley is probably one of the hilliest areas in the city,” Emma says. “It’s still a workout even with an ebike but I find it so much easier than my normal bike. It means I’m not so hot when I arrive for work.

“I still enjoy riding my normal bike for fun though, it hasn’t replaced it entirely but it is more convenient for work sometimes.”

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Practice manager Sam Fellowes says the trial has been a success and he is looking at ways to get an ebike that all staff can share when doing health visits in the community.

“Since we joined the scheme we’ve had so many staff members asking how they can join in,” Sam says. “We’ve got a bike locker installed by Doing R Bit, so the next stage is getting a permanent bike to go in it.”

Sam says that switching to ebikes is part of Birley Health Centre’s wider ethos around sustainability and reducing carbon emissions. “We already have solar panels and a wind turbine,” he says, “so this feels like another step in the right direction.”

However, Sam would also like to see more support from the next government for schemes such as workplace ebikes.

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Sustainability is a major focus for the NHS at the moment but there is very little funding for schemes like this,” he says, “even though they are clearly popular with staff and patients and make a big difference to our carbon emissions. I’d like to see that change.”