I took the new Big Issue e-bikes for a spin around Bristol and was pleasantly surprised

The Big Issue launched its first-ever cycling program in Bristol earlier this month, in partnership with ShareBike. The eco-bikes launched on February 1 and there are plans to roll them out to other UK cities in the future.

The affordable transportation initiative will benefit the local community by providing people with an alternative to car use ahead of the Clean Air Zone plan, which is due to begin in late summer. It is designed to encourage healthy living in every location, reducing traffic congestion and encouraging people to cycle rather than drive.

Green job opportunities were also made available through the launch. Unemployed and vulnerable people in local communities have been offered positions and will have access to support and services to improve their lives. All employees will receive the living wage.

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It’s not the only presence The Big Issue has in Bristol, with the organization helping an average of 30 Bristol-based vendors sell nearly 1,500 copies of the magazine each week. Over the years they have also invested in local businesses and the wider Bristol community.

To help launch Big Issue’s e-bikes, £450,000 has been invested by City Friends – a Bristol-based impact investment fund managed by Bristol & Bath Regional Capital – but how good are the bikes when it’s is it to use them?

We decided to put them to the test to find out if they are a decent rival to Voi in terms of cheap and eco-friendly transport around the city.

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Our opinion

Having never ridden an e-bike before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was far from disappointed. Bristol’s hilly environments will never be a problem again if you’re riding one of Big Issue’s 400 bikes through the city.

The electric motor kicked in all of a sudden and just like that I was suddenly lost in the wind and sped up. I found that you only had to barely pedal to navigate through the city, making it an effortless trip for cyclists.

Unfortunately, I think the brakes could have been better, but they were functional and secure, but not as sharp as I might have expected. The saddle itself was comfortable.

The bikes only have one gear, so when I went to try and tackle the notoriously steep Park Street, I didn’t have to worry about changing gears. In fact, it barely feels like an incline on any of these bikes.

They’re also easy to unlock by simply scanning the QR code on the back of the bike via the swanky new app. To complete your trip you have to take a picture of where you placed the bike and there are no annoying dividing lines like you find on Voi which can make users very frustrated when the signals GPS turn on.

It only costs a flat rate of 50p to start your ride with the pay as you go option and then an additional 20p per minute while driving, or you can opt for a £19.95 monthly pass which gives the First 10 minutes of each ride for free before later charging you 20p per minute. Both plans are capped at £12.

Every e-bike in Bristol has a unique name.

Every bike in Bristol has a different name, which is quite a nice feature for people who want to hop on. I had the pleasure of driving Karin through Bristol. The app on your cell phone tells you the location of your nearest e-bikes, its battery charge and directions to where you can find it, making it super easy for users.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised. Having used YoBikes in the past, I found this to be a much easier trip through Bristol, especially since I wasn’t all sweaty and exhausted at the end of my trip. I would highly recommend trying one.

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