Ray Wookey, director of Cycling Made Easy, expresses his frustrations at British Heart Foundation’s policy which denies riders of pedelec electric bikes the chance to participate in their London to Brighton ride.
“I get a number of interesting emails when I’m at work, some of which astound me. Two recent emails have left quite an impression.
The first read: “Two million pedelecs on the road in Germany”. That’s amazing. That’s two million people taking journeys without polluting the air, and getting exercise that they might not otherwise take.
This figure shows that pedelec bikes are going to be the norm in mainland Europe in the near future. Seeing at first hand the growth in our own pedelec business, it won’t be long before it is the norm in the UK too.
“BHF has no plans to change its stance”
The second email left me reeling for other reasons. Sent to me by a representative of the British Heart Foundation, it read, “BHF has no plans to change its stance on allowing anything other than non-powered bikes into our events.”
The BHF inferred that pedelecs increase health and safety risks to participants. This is nonsense. I have no interest in selling anything which endangers others. Indeed, Cycling Made Easy takes a strong stance on anything which does increase risk in cycling – note our position on e-bike tuning kits.
I had spoken directly to decision makers at the BHF last year who assured me that pedelecs would be allowed to join in their events; and why shouldn’t they? Pedelecs are legally classed as bicycles. That’s not just my opinion, that’s fact, not only here in the UK but across Europe. You can see why I am not only confused but frustrated by their decision, not least as I helped raise £3000 for the BHF riding on a pedelec.
“The BHF are sitting on the wrong side of history”
The BHF are effectively saying to thousands of people – who would not otherwise be on bicycles – that they don’t want their support. That includes me as a former fundraiser, and also our customers who alerted me to the fact that they were not allowed on the London to Brighton ride.
My feeling is that the BHF are sitting on the wrong side of history. Their stance perpetuates a tired myth that pedelecs are fast and dangerous; that pedelecs are ‘mopeds’. They are not. Meanwhile, a growing community of pedelec riders will want to participate in charity events.
There is something that I agree with the BHF on: more people should get cycling. However you simply won’t get more people cycling by forcing pedelec riders to the sidelines.
“Surely we need to reward their courage…”
Pedelec riders are very often people who have not cycled in decades. They’ve made the psychological and financial leap to get on two-wheels. Surely we need to reward their courage, to encourage them to expand their cycling and to welcome them back into the cycling community. We don’t need to sneer at them and block them from joining in. It’s that attitude that stops people from cycling in the first place.
Sign the petition calling for the BHF to change its policy and allow pedelecs to take part in their events on change.org: