Way out west: Local Sustainable Transport Fund Case Studies

In the first of a series of articles prepared in partnership with the DfT, RUDI and partner Local Transport Today profile some of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund initiatives being delivered by local authorities

Focus on the south-west of England

Swindon’s cycle loan scheme is an innovative and engaging project that allows commuters to borrow a bike for free before deciding whether to buy one outright.

The scheme is run by an organisation called Recycles, a social enterprise set up as part of the Salvation Army in Swindon. Recycles provides a pool of 30 bikes of various shapes, sizes and styles, including electric and folding bikes. The enterprise also provides employment for people who have been homeless. Recycles provides training in bike maintenance and customer service skills, boosting the trainees’ skills and improving future employment prospects. The trainees also refurbish and sell donated second hand bikes, which provides financial sustainability for the project.

Bikes can be borrowed for free for up to eight weeks, enough time to give cycling to work a go. Participants pay a small refundable deposit, and must log their journeys online, which provides valuable data on the scheme’s popularity. At the end of the hire period, the bike is returned and the user receives a discount voucher for a new or refurbished bike.

Maureen Corcoran was one of the scheme’s first participants. She said: “After a long period of not having cycled, I was able to get a bike that I felt safe on, and undertook some free cycle training too. Borrowing the bike gave me the confidence to get cycling again and I’ve now gone on to purchase a bike of my own.”

Since the scheme was launched in 2012, 66 people have borrowed a bike and, although it’s early days, anecdotal feedback has been highly positive. Thanks to the journey data users have logged, the council can now analyse trends and will follow up with participants as part of the scheme’s monitoring process.

Gloucestershire County Council LiftTraining

‘LiftTraining’ (Learning independence for travel) provides free travel training for adults with physical and/or learning disabilities to encourage confidence and independence when using public transport. Training is delivered in person, is carried out on the actual routes the learner wishes to use and is delivered on a 1:1 basis.

‘LiftTraining’ has provided support for eight people since being set up early this year. One user of the service, Dan (pictured above), needed to travel from Quedgeley to Gloucester city centre to access a course being run by the Prince’s Trust. Dan successfully completed his travel training and now uses a local bus service.

Business Travel Grants

Gloucestershire’s ‘thinktravel’ programme has awarded nearly £60,000 in business travel grants to local businesses, with most funding being used to install or upgrade cycle parking. Local businesses have offered over £250,000 of matched financial commitments to help deliver infrastructure, promote sustainable transport schemes, provide cycle training, and enable flexible working. These improvements will be available to over 16,000 staff and 4,000 students. The first phase of the grants has been so successful that a second phase is being considered for later this year.

Plymouth City Council Laira Rail Bridge

Laira Rail Bridge originally carried trains to local quarries along the Turnchapel branch line but has fallen into disrepair since its closure in the late 1980s. Plymouth’s £3.1 million project will restore the bridge into a new pedestrian and cycle route, with construction starting later this year. The bridge will open in 2015.

Access to Stations

As part of the Fund’s Access to Stations project, Plymouth is working to improve door-to-door journeys for rail passengers. This involves helping people travel to and from the train station on foot or by bike. The North Cross Link Improvements will allow passengers to cycle or walk directly to Plymouth train station, and consultations are now complete for the regeneration of Plymouth train station forecourt and Saltash Road connections. This is expected to result in increased cycling and rail patronage. Personalised information will soon be provided at the station, which will help people to find the best ways to travel to and from the town centre and the train station on foot or by bike.

Devon County Council Work Hubs

Devon’s work hub in Totnes offers flexible and convenient office space to individuals and businesses. Launched in November 2012, its popularity has grown with both the hot desks and rented offices in high demand.

Work hubs provide a middle ground between home working and formal office space, offering flexible accommodation, good broadband and fantastic opportunities for networking with others. Combined with an inviting atmosphere (and great coffee!), they reduce the need to travel to work while making remote working more viable. The hub was been such a success that plans are already underway to replicate the concept across the county.

Carsharedevon

Thanks to the Fund, Devon has been able to raise greater awareness of the popular ‘Carsharedevon’ scheme. They have launched a promotional campaign which shows the financial savings possible from car-sharing. The ‘Feeling the Squeeze’ campaign led to a record number of registrations, and there are now almost 10,000 active car-share members in Devon. Car-sharing reduces the number of single occupancy car journeys on the roads, and also makes it easier for people across Devon to access employment.

Access to Education

Working in partnership with Sustrans, Devon County Council is leading an Access to Education project. This project builds on Devon’s past experience of reducing single occupancy car journeys to schools. This project supports parents with complex journeys that include both school and work travel. Active travel officers engage with pupils, staff and parents at schools already selected for their potential for high levels of modal shift and congestion reduction. In particular, they help students who are making the move from primary to secondary education to maintain habits of walking or cycling to school. The project also installs infrastructure such as cycle parking.

West of England

Building on the success of the Greater Bristol Bus Network and Cycling City programmes, the four authorities comprising the West of England (Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council & South Gloucestershire Council) have worked together to understand residents’ key local transport concerns, the barriers to travel behaviour change, and what the key motivators for change are. The feedback has helped to develop marketing campaigns, and provided two key insights in relation to the role technology can play, and the importance of providing travel planning at key life stages.

New Technology

The first insight was the need for a single source of trusted, up-to-the-minute travel information for all modes of transport. Residents make journeys across the whole region, not only for work and school but for leisure purposes too. Naturally, this crosses local authority boundaries, which led to the development of the travelwest.info website as a single portal covering all four authorities.

The other key insight was the role ‘events’ play in triggering travel behaviour change. Small scale immediate events, such as traffic disruption through weather or road works, prompt an immediate review of travel options. travelwest.info was therefore developed to motivate travellers to visit the website or use travel apps to gain information on different ways to travel.

The Travelwest Bus Checker app in particular provides people with real-time-information about bus services across the region, including tracking individual buses and their destinations. It is available for use with iPhone and Android smartphones & tablets, and has already had over 2,500 downloads.

Transitions Travel Planning

Predictable life changes such as changing schools, moving house or starting at a new job or University provide key opportunities to think about and change travel choices. This project engages with people at key ‘transition’ points, making it easier for people to choose sustainable travel options.

The West of England project has developed and is evaluating a travel information pack for new residents in Cheswick village (1,000 newly-built homes) to inform them about travel choices available to them in their new area. The information pack was provided to new residents by the Travel West Roadshow team, who also provided travel advice, offers and promotions. This information was also shared with the developers to use in their marketing suites. So far, the team has contacted over 65% of residents, with over 40% of these either requesting further information or taking up direct offers, such as loan bikes, bus taster-tickets and personalised advice and information about local travel choices.