Lewisham Cycle Loan Scheme


Lewisham leads the way with successful cycle loan scheme

As the benefits of cycling to society and individuals become more apparent, local councils are looking at ways to encourage more people to cycle. In many European cities cycling is not restricted to certain groups (young people and men are vastly over-represented among London cyclists), but is a common means of transport for all age groups, sexes and socio-economic backgrounds.

Transport for London, as it highlights in a recent video, says it wants to see people from 8 to 80 cycling in our city, which is also what we campaign for across Greater London. If a parent is reassured that their 12-year-old cycle is safe to cycle to school on their own or your nan feels comfortable cycling to her local shops, then we can be fairly certain that the streets are safe and inviting enough for everyone to cycle on.

While that's our ultimate aim, there's no reason why we shouldn't make efforts now to explain the benefits of cycling to as many people as possible now. The more people who cycle now, then the more drive there'll be for better infrastructure. 

Often people think cycling is not for them because they perceive it to be more difficult or demanding then it is or they simply don’t have access to a bike to have a go. We're the capital’s experts on ‘getting more bums on seats’, and have developed successful ways of addressing perceived barriers to cycling.

Since May 2013, we've been working with Lewisham Council to get more of its residents cycling. Lewisham identified a gap not filled by their free cycle training or group activities such as led rides – if you don’t have access to a bike, you're unlikely to sign up to a cycling activity. That's where we stepped in with our Bike Loan Scheme. We created a programme that engages people with cycling and gets them riding bikes every day.

Lewisham residents (and those who study and work in the borough) sign themselves up for a four-week bike loan for only £10. At the induction, the residents select the size, type or model of bike that they think best suits them, and we make sure it's one that fits properly to provide a comfortable ride, answering any questions they might have.

Lock, helmet, basket and child seat are provided if requested. Throughout the loan period, the loanee is given support and advice, and participants keep a log of their activities. If cycle training is needed, then a free council session is organised to coincide with the start of their loan. At the end of the loan, the bike can be purchased at a discount to ensure the new behaviour and enthusiasm is continued beyond the loan period.

Councils fund schemes that get people cycling as it benefits their residents and can save the borough money in the long term. Better public health means reduced costs from obesity or heart disease. Reduction in congestion can save local businesses money and improve air quality. Also residents be able to access a bike that could lead to increase in employment by widening the choice of jobs or helping them reduce money spent on transport.

One partcipent, Phil said "Making the first journey to work by bike was a key moment for me, and working out it’s quicker than London Transport and cheaper.”

Over 400 people have been through the scheme and we have hundreds more registered and on the waiting list. The scheme is incredibly effective with 87% of people either having bought a bike or intending to and 66% using a bike to make more than three journeys a week. That’s alongside the majority enjoying the experience and realising how cycling can make their life easier.

And frequently it’s not only the loanee that gets cycling, because over a quarter of people on the scheme have encouraged some of their friends or family members to cycle with them.

The key strength of the scheme is that it's a well-structured programme, and participants rarely drop out. Once a few people have been through the four-week programme, the word spreads and the programme does a great job of marketing itself.

The scheme has been a massive success in Lewisham, and could be equally applied across Greater London. Lewisham isn't particularly 'special' - like most London boroughs, it has some good streets for cycling and some not so good ones.

Our Bike Loan Scheme is proven to make a real contribution to getting adult Londoners of all ages and backgrounds cycling. This has to be a good thing... 

You can register here for the Lewisham cycle loan scheme. Or for more information on the cycle loan scheme and other LCC projects get in touch with our Cycling Projects Team at cyclingprojects@lcc.org.uk



Photos by Aly Poepke & Anna Gudaniec