The Community Council of Shropshire helps residents get on their bike
PUBLISHED: 16:22 23 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:46 20 February 2013
Pedalling pastor Peter Price gets on his bike
Getting to work in rural areas is a growing challenge with changing work patterns, a lack of easily accessible public transport and the rising cost of fuel making car ownership a luxury for some. But as the Community Council of Shropshire has demonstrated, there are practical affordable solutions available
The Shropshire Wheels to Work (W2W) Project, run by the Community Council of Shropshire, is a nationally award-winning charitable scheme which aims to help people get to work if they cannot afford their own transport and there is a lack of suitable public transport. The project has been running for 15 years and from humble beginnings as a small moped loan scheme in south Shropshire and north Herefordshire, it has expanded to cover the whole county with a fleet of 40 mopeds and 14 power-assisted bicycles, as well as offering a number of other transport solutions which help people solve their particular transport-to-work problems.
Pastor Peter Price from Craven Arms is a W2W client. He said: "I first heard about Wheels to Work on BBC Radio Shropshire, and I thought it sounded an excellent scheme. In my work as the minister for the local Craven Arms Evangelical Church, I'm constantly coming across people who, without ready access to a car, are frustrated in not being able to access employment opportunities or work-based training.
Having an electric bike or a moped is a very practical solution, as well as being cheap to run for the user, environmentally-friendly and a healthy option.
I had been really struggling to get to visit my more rural members of the parish so I've been using an electric bike to support my work for the past six months. I understand that I have become known locally as The Pedalling Pastor! I am really impressed by the bikes versatility, especially by its ability to flatten out the Shropshire hills. As 80 per cent of my congregation live in scattered villages and hamlets, often on top of steep hills, it's been a real boon. I'm proud to be part of the longest running scheme in the country, and I hope that many more local people are able to take advantage of this excellent resource."
Being one of the largest rural counties in the country getting to work has long been an issue for many Shropshire people, says Project Officer Mark Powell. Although the county has a public transport network, people still struggle, especially from remoter areas or to get to jobs that involve shift work. Mopeds can be a cost-effective way to overcome rural isolation and get to work. There are also environmental benefits as mopeds cut congestion and pollution, can be quicker than cars in urban areas and, with rising fuel costs, they are cheap to run.
Originally the scheme targeted rurally isolated people, adds Mark, however, over the last few years we have seen an increase in people struggling with transport in urban areas, especially if they work shifts. Battery assisted bikes are an ideal addition to our transport fleet especially for shorter distance journeys.
Eric Smith, BBC Radio Shropshires breakfast show presenter, loaned an electric bike for two weeks last August to promote the advantages of cycling to work. At the time Eric said: I do about five miles to work each day and Im not getting any younger. But maybe this electric bike is the push I need to get the wind in my hair and do a little more to get fit.
The primary challenge for W2W at present is to secure long-term funding for this valued service, says Mark. We are hopeful to find a funder or sponsor out there that recognises the impact that our service can have to unemployed people and those, like Peter, for whom transport barriers hinder them from carrying out their work
For more information about W2W contact The Community Council of Shropshire, 4 The Creative Quarter, Shrewsbury Business Park, Shrewsbury, SY2 6LG, tel 01743 360641. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.shropshire-rcc.org.uk