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Workplace electric bicycle lending scheme rolling out across Limerick City will be monitored by researchers

— Electric bikes will range from folding to cargo bicycles.

An electric bicycle loan scheme is being rolled out in Limerick City and will be monitored by a research team at the University of Limerick.

The ISCycle — Inclusive Sustainable Cycle — project was launched yesterday with the University as the first workplace involved in loaning out bicycles to staff.

Researchers will look at the process of bike lending and the benefits of people switching from car use to cycling electric bicycles. The project team includes researchers working across disciplines including physical activity, health psychology, sustainable engineering and economics.

The new project follows from a number of bike lending schemes being launched around the country, including as part of the Green Campus in University College Cork, a bike library at a school in Harold’s Cross run by the Smart Cities programme at University College Dublin, and a lending scheme for Dublin City Council staff. There is also a mini-cargo bike lending project being run by the Limerick Cycling Campaign.

These are try-before-you-buy schemes aimed at demonstrating the potential of switching to ebikes, as distinctive from on-going personal rental schemes offered by a number of companies.

The University of Limerick researchers said that they are aiming to produce evidence-based guidance on ebike loans that will be relevant for active travel and sustainable transport policy in Ireland.

The university said that the project will be rolled out to other workplaces in the city in phases and the study will continue throughout 2023 and 2024, with preliminary findings due to be available early next year.

Participants in the study will be loaned an ebike for 4-12 weeks while their use of different transport modes is measured. It will include a range of ebikes, from folding to cargo bicycles and bicycle trailers.

Study participants will also be offered accessories such as raingear and child seats as well as cycling skills training.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey said: “The potential for e-bike ownership to replace private car-trips is promising but needs to be examined in the Irish context.”

“I am interested to see also that the research will examine the gender gap in active travel. This is research that will have real life impact and aligns with our strategic goal as an institution to be a leader in addressing global challenges,” said Professor Mey.

Dr James Green of the School of Allied Health at UL is leading the research. He said: “They will be expected to cycle more and drive less than people who are not loaned an ebike and we will be trying to understand the environmental implications of growing ebike ownership in Ireland.”

“Scientists, engineers, and economists on the team will study the impact on electrical waste recycling systems and long-term consequences for a circular economy. Ebikes can reduce congestion, reduce CO2 emissions, and increase physical activity. They have advantages over other forms of electric micro mobility such as scooters, due to their ability to carry cargo and people, and contribute to physical activity targets,” he said.

Green added: “Compared to electric cars, e-bikes are cheaper, more resource efficient, and do not contribute to congestion.

Kerrie Sheehan, head of research and technology at SEAI, said: “Decarbonising transport is essential to achieving our climate and energy targets. We look forward to the learnings and insights that this research project will bring, to inform future policy and ultimately to lead to emissions savings.”

The project has been supported financially by the Department of Transport and the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland under the SEAI National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Funding Programme 2021.

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