Wheels for Heroes scheme that loans free Brompton bikes to NHS staff hailed a success

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  • June 1, 2020
  • Comments Off on Wheels for Heroes scheme that loans free Brompton bikes to NHS staff hailed a success

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A crowdfunded scheme that loans free bikes to NHS staff was today hailed a success after enabling hundreds to avoid public transport.

The Wheels for Heroes scheme was launched by Brompton Bike Hire, the sister company of Brompton Bicycle, which makes the famous folding bikes in west London.

More than £320,000 was donated to its campaign to help frontline health workers get to and from work by bike. About 500 bikes have been donated to NHS trusts so far, with a further 300 in production.

Barts Health, the capital’s biggest trust, has received 124, with dozens more due this week. It is also buying 20 electric Bromptons for staff living further from its five east London hospitals.

The e-Bromptons, funded by £20,000 grants from both British Cycling and Barts Charity, will eventually be used to help the rehabilitation of cardiac patients once the pandemic dies down.

St Bartholomew’s colleagues: Sophia, Rok, Will, James, and Tonya ()

Jonathan Kelly, a manager at St Bartholomew’s hospital, in Smithfield, said the scheme – coupled with the existing availability of other Brompton hire bikes – had enabled hundreds of Barts Health staff to cycle.

Mr Kelly was already in discussions with Brompton prior to the pandemic, meaning Barts Health was able to get “first dibs” on the bikes.

Vanda: a cardiac physiologist ()

He said the bikes – which are owned by the trust – were being loaned to staff for three months. What happens with the bikes after the loan period is over is under consideration.

They are being used by staff to commute to work, rather than to cycle between the trust’s sites – as the trust is minimising travel between its hospitals to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

“They have really appreciated it,” he said. “They have probably always wanted to cycle, and this is an easy enabler to get them going.

“They have found it really valuable during Covid – it allows people to avoid public transport, and they see cycling as a really good thing for their wellbeing. Some people are so anxious about getting on public transport and they feel relief at being able to cycle.”

About 50 staff are on a waiting list at St Bartholomew’s. “If I give a bike to someone, the next thing I get is five messages from the same department asking for a bike. The success of the scheme just creates more demand.”

The bikes have inspired staff to travel from as far afield as Ealing, Harrow and Dagenham, while the imminent arrival of the electric Bromptons has sparked interest from staff hoping to cycle from Richmond.

The 20 e-Bromptons, which normally cost from £2,595 but are being provided by the firm at a discount, are being paid for with £20,000 grants from British Cycling and Barts Charity.

The bikes, which can be folded and stored inside the hospitals, also overcome problems of NHS staff having bikes stolen. Secure bike hubs are also being created across the trust.

Aishah: an intensive care physiotherapist ()

Trust chief executive Alwen Williams is among those test-riding a Brompton.

He said: “A lot of people have said they had wanted to cycle but always thought it was too dangerous. The lower level of traffic has created an environment they’re more comfortable with.

“The scheme’s had a massive impact, both on the wellbeing of our staff and made visible the demand for active travel. So many people across the organisation are talking about cycling. It’s been a really good instigator for change. Probably three per cent of our staff have started to cycle, just through the Bromptons.”

Siobhan, an A&E nurse ()

The trust has 16,000 staff, of which 3,000 are based at St Bartholomew’s. Mr Williams added: “We have got 200 spaces for bikes and they’re always full.”

Other London trusts to receive bikes include Barking, Havering and Redbridge, Chelsea and Westminster and University College London Hospitals.

Julian Scriven, director of Brompton bike hire, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many people embracing cycling. What I find so inspiring is the comments from NHS staff and who say it gives them a moment to decompress from a long shift at the hospital to coming back home.

“If we can help the NHS team have that moment to clear their minds and avoid taking their work home with them then I consider it a job well done.”