A SCHEME to loan free e-bikes to visitors in Barnsley town centre is picking up pace as part of a county-wide project to make ‘active travel’ more enticing.

The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) has secured £4.86m from the government’s Active Travel England Fund to encourage residents to walk and cycle.

About £500,000 will be ring-fenced for a pilot project to loan e-bikes to people - free of charge - at the county’s active travel hubs such as the one at Barnsley Interchange.

A report, which will be heard by South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard next week, revealed that e-bike ownership in the UK remains ‘low’ but the project would ‘widen the appeal to more people’.

County bosses believe offering free loans to visitors will result in a shift change taking place.

Other projects which could be funded include priority ‘triggers’ at traffic lights in Barnsley and ‘corridors’ for cyclists along the A628 from Shafton into the town centre.

South Yorkshire’s active travel commissioner, Ed Clancy OBE, said: “I’m convinced that having a fair chance to make a different choice about how we travel is at the heart of creating healthier communities and a better future.

“Giving people the means to travel by bike, to store their bikes safely, and to experience the fun and freedom of e-bikes is critical to helping that happen, because it offers an easy alternative for getting around.

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“I’m convinced e-bikes have the ability to be a generational game-changer and schemes like this are so important when it comes to shifting perceptions around active travel.

“It’s my priority to make sure that everyone who wants to walk, wheel and cycle feels confident and safe enough to do so.

“I want to break down the barriers that are limiting people using healthier travel choices. ( “A huge part of that is making sure we have high-quality cycle routes that separate bikes from cars on the roads as much as possible, making walking safer by building new paths and better crossings, and working closely with local people to help them have better choices when it comes to walking, wheeling and cycling. ( “The funding will help us build on the transformative plans we are already taking forward to create a revised strategic vision for walking, wheeling and cycling with real people at the heart of our new network plan.”

Barnsley Council’s ruling cabinet accepted a City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) sum in October 2022, paving the way for outline plans to be drawn up by highways bosses to boost active travel.

Coun James Higginbottom, cabinet spokesperson for environment and transport, added: “We’re excited by the development of the interchange’s Active Travel Hub and will be investing significantly to enhance the offer, including a mobile hub to increase the access for our communities.

“This allows the hub to be integrated into our wider active travel agenda as we look to make active travel an attractive and realistic choice for short journeys to enable and encourage people to walk and cycle as part of their daily lives.

“The benefits of physical activity through active travel to the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as the environment, are proven.”