Case study: university

Students at UWE benefit from cycle fleet

The University of the West of England (UWE) doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’ with its courses in sustainability. It proudly ‘walks the walk’ through a proven programme. James Morvan of UWE, whose role encompasses promoting sustainable transport at the vast university, wanted to make cycling a more viable transport option for students. One way to do this was to offer learners a fleet of bicycles for everyday use. The bikes needed to be affordable, well-made and have a good maintenance contract attached. UWE ***
“Bristol Bicycles wasn’t the cheapest bid, nor the most expensive. But the build quality of the bikes is very high and the brand is strong. It scored very highly.”

James explains: “Bristol’s problems with traffic — the roadworks, tailbacks and pollution — are well known. We wanted to give students the chance to avoid the jams and stay healthy. Cycling to the campus and about the city was an obvious solution. A bike hire scheme like this needed to meet our objectives on health and sustainability but it also had to stack up commercially. “Taking all this on board, I created a five-year business plan for a bicycle fleet with the aim of breaking even financially. Students pay a small annual hire fee for which they get to use a well-maintained bike. And the university’s commitment to sustainability means we can use car parking revenue to promote cycling. That money is ringfenced for sustainable travel. So we see the cycle scheme as a social enterprise: it makes sense commercially but has a higher purpose around health and wellbeing.” Universities are huge organisations running big budgets that require rock-solid procurement procedures. To identify the best supplier for a fleet of over 100 bikes, UWE’s procurement process involved getting three quotes from manufacturers and bike shops. James evaluated each bid using a scoring mechanism, ultimately choosing Bristol Bicycles from Jake’s Bikes as preferred supplier. “We ran a pilot scheme in 2014 using cheaper bikes from a different supplier” says James. “But after only one year of use the bikes looked like they were already about 5 years old, all rusty and worn”. For the launch of the new larger scheme in 2015 UWE took a different approach. “Jake’s Bikes wasn’t the cheapest bid, nor the most expensive. But we wanted to support a local company, the build quality of the bikes is very high and its Bristol Bicycles brand is strong. It scored very highly.” Now in their third year of use, UWE’s Bristol Bicycles are running well and the scheme is popular and over-subscribed every year. Students love being able to get about town on the smart, reliable bikes. Perhaps this will play a part in a groundbreaking scientific discovery. After all, Einstein claimed cycling prompted his Theory of Relativity: “I thought of that while riding my bicycle.” Please contact Jake Voelcker if you are interested in fleet bikes for your university, college or workplace. If you are a UWE student please see UWE website for details of the bike hire scheme.