The Big Issue, the long-running magazine that helps to support homeless and vulnerable people, has branched out in an unlikely direction – it’s launched a new rental e-bike service with a social responsibility edge.
The service, a partnership between The Big Issue Group and Norwegian firm ShareBike, has recently launched in Bristol, and the two firms have plans to expand it across the UK.
As well as the goal of reducing traffic and cutting pollution in Bristol, the Big Issue eBikes scheme will recruit unemployed and vulnerable people from the local community. They will receive retraining along with other support and services, and the firm has pledged to pay them a Living Wage.
The Bristol service has launched with a fleet of around 500 bikes, which is claimed will lead to a reduction of around 1900 car trips a day. The Big Issue already has a strong presence in Bristol, where it helps 30 vendors to sell around 1500 copies of the magazine each week. The Big Issue Group says it has also invested in local businesses and initiatives.
The service works via an app, with riders able to take out a £19.95 monthly subscription for unlimited rides of up to 10 minutes, with additional usage charged at 20p per minute up to a maximum of £12 a day. A pay-as-you-go option (requiring a £10 deposit) charges a 50p flat fee plus 20p per minute up to a maximum of £12 a day.
Paul Cheal, the boss of The Big Issue Group, said: “Renting an eBike from The Big Issue is not only good for the environment, but it also creates opportunities for marginalised people.”
ShareBike was originally founded by Clear Channel, and began offering a bike-sharing scheme in Oslo, Norway in 2001. It became a standalone firm in 2018, and has run bike-sharing schemes in Norway, Sweden, Spain, Mexico and other countries.
ShareBike boss Jan Tore Endresen said the partnership with The Big Issue was “a unique opportunity to help people whilst providing sustainable mobility.”
The Bristol scheme has received £450,000 investment from City Funds, an ‘impact investment’ fund based in the city.
The Big Issue eBikes scheme has already agreed a deal to launch in Aberdeen, and is recruiting other local regions that it can expand into.