This is the first of a series of blogs about people’s experience of ebiking. Firstly we must thank Wheels For All for running the ebike loans. This blog is about the experience of Sobia Afridi’s two weeks of using an ebike in November 2019. Sobia is a councillor at Oxfordshire County Council and has worked at Oxford Brookes University for 22 years.
Sobia was born in Marston, Oxford and has lived there all her life. Sobia had a bike when she was younger but didn’t really use it as she suffered from bullying at school and so her mother would walk with her. As an adult, Sobia got back into cycling when she had her daughter, who would ride on the back of the bike to the nursery. Sobia wanted her daughter to understand bikes and helped her learn to cycle, along with her son.
Motivation to use an ebike
Sobia’s cycling stopped completely last year due to a back injury and has since struggled to step onto her bike. This meant Sobia put on weight and was getting overtired when she did cycle occasionally. Sobia was motivated to try the ebike as cycling was previously her main form of exercise and she thought the power assistance would help her get back into cycling.
Experience on the ebike
Sobia’s initial concerns were that the bike would shoot away from her with the added power and that she wouldn’t get much exercise from riding the bike. However, Sobia described her experience as very positive and she had been using the ebike more than she would use her normal bike.
The ebike was changing her transport choices for longer distances: ‘I used it to go campaigning in Iffley which I usually would have taken the bus.’ Compared to her normal bike, Sobia’s journey times on the ebike were much quicker and left her feeling more relaxed: ‘I was always out of breath and stressed I wouldn’t make it to work on time.’ As well as enjoying the speed of the bike.
Other challenges noted were the weight of the bike when pushing it around to lock it up and the road infrastructure around the University. ‘I tend not to go on the road, I tend to go on the pavement. I don’t feel safe with the buses so close to you. The [cycle lane] lines are really narrow, and you have to be careful of pot holes.’ When asked about Oxford being a ‘Cycling City’, Sobia replied ‘we have the name the Cycling City but we’ve got a long way to go.’
Future plans for cycling
Sobia had already begun looking to purchase an ebike for after the loan period. Not only for herself but also for her daughter to get to school, who has a chronic illness that prevents her from cycling easily.
When asked how the ebike experience may influence her work as a councillor, Sobia replied ‘Any opportunity where cycling or infrastructure is talked about I will certainly talk about ebikes and promote it. I have already told all 41 people in my office. We talk infrastructure and cycling quite a lot. Some of the councillors are a bit anti cycling. It’s good to have Councillor Susanne Bartington as the cycling champion who does a lot of cross party work and is always on her bike.’
Sobia concluded by saying ‘there are so many cars coming into Oxford every day, but not everyone can go on a bike. More people who are less able could ride an ebike’. Sobia would like to see more loan schemes allowing people to ride ebikes, particularly for older people.
Co-CAFE is led by Tim Jones (Reader in Urban Mobility) with Ben Spencer (Research Fellow) and Tom Shopland (Co-CAFE project administrator) based in the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University.