ELECTRIC bikes could become the new form of transport for city council workers after the authority launched a pilot scheme.

Two Smarta ebikes from the Electric Transport Shop in Magdalen Road, East Oxford, have been loaned to the council for staff to travel between work meetings.

The bikes, which cost £1,100, are powered by a rechargeable battery and can reach a top speed of about 15 miles per hour.

They have low, medium or high settings which help to propel the bikes as cyclists pedal, or they can be fitted with twist-grip throttles.

With a five per cent carbon reduction target in place, the council is considering providing electric pool bikes in future as a low-carbon alternative to driving or public transport.

More than 100 miles have been covered by council staff in recent weeks who have also been using the bikes to get fit at lunchtime.

Electric Transport Shop staff member Arlo Union said: “There is usually hesitation before people test-ride the bikes as they are not sure what to expect but everyone comes back with a big smile.

“You can add just as much power assistance as and when you need it, and the rest is still old-fashioned pedal power.

“We are encouraging more and more people to consider cycling local journeys rather than driving as it saves money and reduces carbon emissions.

“It is great that the city council is taking part in this trial to see if they will be useful for future use.”

Labour city councillor Susanna Pressel, who regularly cycles in the city, said: “I think electric bikes could be a good idea for staff who are not as fit as they could be, or have some types of disability.

“Botley Road, in my ward, gets congested and anything that reduces congestion and improves air quality has to be good.

“But most staff can get around on normal bikes – if you have a good set of gears you can even get up Headington Hill quite easily.”

Council staff will take part in the British Heart Foundation’s Oxford to Cambridge charity cycle ride on Sunday, September 16, and the Electric Transport Shop will loan ebikes to some staff for the trip. The 88-mile ride could attract more than 700 cyclists and event organiser Rob Cox said: “This challenging event is great for getting your blood pumping.”

The ride will also start the Oxfordshire Cycle Challenge – a three-week initiative to get more organisations and staff cycling.

The county council also encourages its staff to use public transport, or cycle or walk to work.