On Thursday 12 September 2013, to mark ‘National Cycle to Work Day’ three commuters braved Leicester’s rush hour traffic to answer the question “Which is the fastest and cheapest way of getting to work?” The three chosen vehicles were a public bus, a Jaguar XK 4.2 litre V8 supercharged coupe (and it was red as well!) and a £999 electric bike supplied by Ebike Centres in Leicester city centre which qualifies for the government’s cycle to work scheme.
Starting from Enderby (LE19 2BJ) in Leicestershire during the peak of the rush hour at 08.30 the objective was to get to Ebike Centres‘ showroom (LE1 1DL) on Granby Street, in Leicester city centre, as quickly and cheaply as possible.
After a slightly delayed start at 08.32 all three commuters set off. Addie, our bus passenger, walked the 100 metres or so to the nearest bus stop and quickly caught a bus into town. Liam, riding the electric bike, headed across a pedestrian crossing as soon as the lights turned green and started to follow the cycle lane towards town. Richard joined the busy traffic in his Jaguar and headed along the Narborough Road towards Leicester.
Both the bus and the Jaguar choose to follow the Narborough Road most of the way. The Jaguar’s initial head start was gradually reduced as the bus took advantage of the peak hour bus lanes. Turning off Narborough Road towards Leicester Tigers’ rugby ground they were roughly neck-and-neck. At this point they separated as the bus crawled through heavy traffic towards the city centre whilst the Jaguar skirted around the ring road towards Ebike Centres.
Meanwhile Liam on the electric bike followed the cycle lanes past Enderby police headquarters until he reached the Fosse Park roundabout. Crossing at the pedestrian crossing he turned right on to the Soar Valley Way cycle path; a wide footpath / cycle path which runs alongside this busy dual carriageway. The Fosse Park / Meridian retail and commercial parks are well served by cycle routes and both employees and employers here would really benefit from taking advantage of a cycle to work scheme to free up valuable customer parking spaces during the run up to Christmas.
After passing Fosse Park a quick left turn onto the superb Great Central way – a disused railway line which has been converted into a footpath and cycle lane. Green and peaceful, it heads straight as an arrow into Leicester city centre. At a constant 15mph it takes only 15 minutes before Liam is skirting alongside De Montfort University and Leicester Royal Infirmary.
One more crossing and it is a straight run past Leicester town hall and up Granby Street to the shop.
The route was chosen to be fair to all three commuters. The Jaguar has a few miles of open road to gain a head start. The bus had the benefit of bus lanes closer to town. The electric bike was able to take advantage of cycle route and bus lanes.
In first place, surprisingly, came Liam on his electric bike. Wearing long trousers and a jacket he arrived fresh and relaxed at the front door of Ebike Centres at 08.55; a journey time of only 23 minutes! Particularly pleasing for Liam was that the estimated cost of electricity for the journey was about 2 pence!
Next to arrive was Richard ten minutes later at 09.05; a total of 33 minutes. The Jaguar, on an urban cycle, has a fuel consumption of about 14.6mpg. As well as about £3 of petrol some allowance should be made for the tax, maintenance and insurance costs of running a car.
Addie arrived another 10 minutes later after a short walk from the bus stop to the shop. Her bus fare was £2.60.
The results of the ‘Commuter Challenge’ make interesting reading. Whilst not everyone would want to abandon their car or bus in favour of an ebike, it does show how far the electric bike has come in recent years. If they can compete and beat cars and buses over six miles then there is no doubt that they have to be taken seriously, in terms of both price and efficiency, for shorter journeys.
Thanks are due to Addie and Vickie of Hopwood , Richard of Blakes Guitars and Liam from Ebike Centres on Granby Street, Leicester (@EbikeCentres). The ‘Commuter Challenge’ was filmed by Rajiv Popat and Owen for ITV Central News.
Thanks are also due to Sturgess Jaguar Leicester for the loan of their beautiful car, and Arriva for allowing us to use their buses.