A wheely good initiative

Caption: WDHS staff members Megan McLeish, Brigid Kelly, Heinz de Chelard and Dale Harris, with RideKola CEO & Founder, Chris Arnott and WDHS Director of Corporate Services, Nick Starkie

In recent weeks ebikes were seen criss-crossing Hamilton, as staff at Western District Health Service (WDHS) trialled a new way of commuting to work.

In a first of its kind in Victoria, 25 WDHS staff tried an ebike for a week, to role-model healthy, active transport and support the organisations’s sustainability goals.

Over the trial period, staff travelled around 500km – an average of 38km per bike.

Director of Corporate Services, Nick Starkie, says active transport has many benefits for individuals and organisations like WDHS.

“The benefits of active transport include increasing physical and mental wellbeing, better concentration, lowering carbon emissions, less road congestion and the need for fewer parking spaces.

It’s great for individuals, the workplace and the community and with stats showing that over 56% of car trips in Victoria are under 5km, we hope that more people will consider walking and riding now that they’ve seen how easy it can be,” he said.

Along with the many health benefits, Mr Starkie says using the ebikes for a couple of weeks translated to a reduction in emissions of 131 kgs.

“With close to 900 staff, we could potentially save thousands of tonnes of emissions each year if staff were to ride or walk, rather than drive to work and meetings,” he said.

The ebikes were provided by Melbourne company RideKola, who refurbish and electrify used, Dutch city bikes. The ebikes are available to the public on a subscription platform, to reduce upfront costs and are fully maintained and supported by the company.  

The bikes are a very easy to ride, Dutch style ebike with a step through frame, crate, lights that come on when you turn the bike on for safety, covered chain and mud guards. They are designed specificaly to replace cars for short to medium trips.

They also have electronic locks that are unlocked via an app, making it quick and convenient. The app also reports the number of trips, kilometres cycled and emissions saved.

Mr Starkie said the feedback from staff who participated in the program was incredibly positive, and he is grateful to RideKola for facilitating the trial.

“Many of the participants had never ridden a bike to work before, and it was exciting to see how enthusiastically they embraced the program.

Encouragingly, similar trials elsewhere have seen a 50% post-trial switch to active transport from participants.

A big thank you to Chris and the team at Ride-kola and WDHS Environmental Services Officer, Heinz de Chelard for supporting staff to use the bikes and making the trial possible,” Mr Starkie said.


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