Category Archives: Resources

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) explained. September 2016

Thanks to Richard Attwood for taking the time to write this!

Judging by how often I am asked about e-bikes lately, people are catching on to their potential to offer a viable, green and fun option for folk of all persuasions to be less vehicle dependent for appropriate journeys. As cyclists, Chris and I have for years pedalled journeys long and short on ‘normal’ bikes, and initially I bought an e-bike simply out of a gadgety curiosity, but we very quickly realized how much fun, how convenient and sensible they are as an everyday utilitarian transport option, especially in hilly and traffic choked Sheffield, often being quicker than the car! But if you find yourself considering one, e-bike terminology and the range available is bewildering!

So what is an ‘e-bike’? An e-bike is effectively a normal sturdy bicycle with an electric motor and a battery. Nowadays nearly all are ‘Pedelecs’, only kicking in when you pedal, and cutting off assistance above 15.5mph. (you can pedal faster under your own power as on a normal bike.) The UK and EU legal rated power for an e-bike motor (for public road use) is 250watts, more and it legally ceases to be a bicycle and becomes a moped, requiring a licence, helmet, insurance etc, and any illegal acts committed on the bike then apply to your vehicle licence! In practice all mainstream retailers sell UK compliant 250W bikes. 350W or ‘S-pedelecs’ are illegal here. ‘Twist and Go’ e-bikes made post Jan 2016, with a (connected) throttle working above 4mph, without you needing to pedal, are a no-no. Being classed as a bicycle, helmet wearing is not a legal requirement. For me this is a matter of choice and a judgement I make based on conditions. I do however prioritise bright clothing and having bright lights switched on both day and night.

Why might I think of buying an e-bike? Everyday e-biking is fun, quick, convenient, cheap and can help fitness. We have noticed we feel more confident than we have at times on unpowered bikes, with the power and presence to be more part of the traffic. Everyday journeys for work, heavy shopping and pubbing etc that would have involved the queue/parking hassles of using a vehicle, or hanging around for public transport, are now undertaken with ease and convenience. e-bike power is particularly suitable for shifting heavy or bulky stuff with ‘Cargo’ bikes. See . On e-bikes, even the ‘weather’ is less discouraging, and statistically we know we will live longer and better due to cardiac exercise and breathing less pollution than sat in traffic in a vehicle!

Where would I find out more about e-bikes? If you are curious about or considering buying an e-bike, see David Henshaw’s comprehensive and wide ranging book , and the following article is very informative, interviewing people who know e-bikes well:   Take a look at forums and publications like  and  for general discussions and reviews, See dealers websites like  and  for further helpful discussions about e-bikes and also for ideas on makes and prices.

What should I consider when choosing an e-bike? Consider what you want it for and where. There are 2 main types of e-bike, those powered by electric motors in the front or the rear wheels (Hub drive) and those with the motor positioned down in the frame and working upon the pedal axle – Crank (aka Centre, Chain or Mid) drive. Our e-bikes are this latter type, and we use them as everyday transport for short, often well loaded utility journeys in hilly Sheffield. Others, often those who would not normally cycle any significant distance, if at all, choose e-bikes for longer and less loaded recreational rides of 50 miles or more and love the feeling of easily getting out along their local roads and also exploring on such as Sustrans trails – see: and, for cycle journey planning,

If you live in a hilly area you are better with a Crank drive, as the electric motor drives through the bikes gears as you pedal, so with the right gear selected the motor is kept running at its optimum speed, and less likely to strain on steep/long climbs. Some lighter folk may along OK with Hub drives on hills on e-bikes fitted with especially high torque hub motors and/or a good low gear range, but try before buying.

Torque = pulling or climbing power, given in Nm. All 250w e-bike motors can be set to give varying levels of torque by the manufacturer. 50Nm or more is best in hilly areas.

Buy as well mechanically specified a bike as you can afford. Most e-bikes weigh 18 – 24 kg, pricier ones have a better quality frame and cycle parts, so are easier and more pleasant to ride with the power off when you choose, or if you run out of juice! Bear in mind where you are going to use and keep the bike, not everyone will be able to lift an e-bike plus accessories up steps/on to trains etc! The innovative Nano-Brompton folder aside, weight is why folding e-bikes may be problematic for some use, being too heavy to lift easily. (Tern, and Brompton itself, are promising lighter folding e-bikes soon). e-bikes with batteries mounted between the seat post and the back wheel are a bit longer than normal bikes, so storage or using dedicated train spaces, lifts etc can be an issue.

Best electric motor? The strong and reliable Bosch and Yamaha Crank motors seem to be excellent for heavy duty/hilly use and are found in premium models with high quality, reliable kit. The Bosch is super smooth/intuitive in use, the Yamaha has the advantage of more power starting off and a greater range of gearing options with its double front chainset (most crank drive bikes only have just the one front chainring, on the motor) Reputable makes using newer but less powerful Crank motor systems such as ‘TranzX’ and Shimano ‘STEPS’ are appearing, the latter even offering electronic/automatic gear operation as they try to woo a whole new cycle public. There are crank drive kits to convert your own bike, eg: or see Whoosh bikes. Hub motor kits are available, but need to be high torque if hilly.

What sort of gears do I need? Our e-bikes have enclosed ‘Hub’ type gears in the back wheel, but after hard daily e-bike use I’ve had problems with 2 different makes so I’m going for more repairable open derailleur gears now. Of these, cheaper bikes have 7 speeds, up to 11 on more expensive models. Both gear types are fine for moderate use if properly serviced, but either way a decent range of gears (5 or more) with a low first gear is needed in really hilly areas. The only e-bikes I’ve found with as full a range of gears (30) as some unassisted bikes are the well-established Cytronex models – very normal light e-bikes with a more ‘periodic boost facility’ facility than always on.  and a Kudos model with a triple front chainset and 10 speed rear gears.  so it will have very low gear capability. Whilst a Hub drive, it may prove a good and efficient hill climber, appears to be good value given the high quality parts, and so worth a look/try.

Do brakes matter? Well yes! but what sort? The traditional rim brakes will stop an e-bike just fine, but we have found that in heavy use on a loaded e-bike in Sheffield, the brake blocks and the wheel rim braking surface can wear down rather quickly, so we prefer either the Disc, Roller or Drum brake types now found on many e-bikes.

Accessories: Actually in my view these are essentials: Go for a bike all kitted out with pannier rack, mudguards, a strong stand and with good fitted LED lights, the latter powered by either a front wheel dynamo or the main power battery. If absent on your chosen model get them fitted at purchase. Budget for a good lock too if you want to keep the bike! Go for a ‘Sold secure Gold’ rated lock eg:  is a versatile/good value one.

Batteries and Range: In terms of how far you can go on a battery charge, things like weight (yours/the load you carry) hills, and headwinds mean the ‘typical’ Lithium-Ion battery on a modern e-bike will do between 15 and 50++ miles depending on what power level you choose, and how willing you are to cycle with the power off on the easy parts of the journey. This typical battery will be about 400Wh capacity, arrived at by multiplying the typical 36volt electric motor x the typical mid-sized 11ah battery. You consume about 10 – 20 of those 400 watts every mile you are cycling with power, depending on conditions. You can often specify larger capacity batteries at purchase. (Larger batts = longer range, not more power!) Incidentally – in real life there seems to be little to be gained in practice, range wise, by the few models that ‘regenerate’ electric as you freewheel, all of which are Hub drive. Note: Lithium batteries really do last better if used regularly rather than occasionally, ideally kept charged between 20 and 80% (not fully recharged after every use as often advised) and never flattened completely.

Where would I try/buy/service one?  Hire one, eg at a local trail centre: I recommend that you really try to buy one from a localish dealer, and/or one who is a BEBA (British Electric Bike Assocation) member.     The ‘e’ part of e-bikes can be complex, and you benefit from advice, follow up, warranty repairs, service, and if necessary arbitration and redress. For service/repairs use a registered local service centre, eg:  or here in Sheffield.

In Sheffield we have a few e-bike retailers: Giant store, Halfords, Fosters of Rotherham, and J E James. Mid-price choices locally could be something like the well regarded Raleigh Captus:  The Cube bikes available via J E James look like an especially high value way into Bosch or Yamaha powered e-bike action! Or just go mad and buy yourself one of Raleigh’s premium ‘Haibike‘ range:  it may prove to be worth every penny in the long run, especially if like us it’s going to be used as everyday transport. Then in York there is the Smarta:  which has always looked like an interesting option, well reviewed and apparently a good climber even if it is hub drive, and with an amazing 4 yr battery warranty. Or check out a reputable but less expensive make online, eg Kudos or Woosh bikes, both offer basic but good value well equipped bikes and reasonably priced (£300 ish) replacement batteries – I’m getting on well with a new inexpensive Woosh ‘Bali’ model currently, although I would not want to pedal it far unpowered!

Guarantee: On a mid to higher price bike look for a minimum 2 year guarantee on the battery and the electric motor, and do check the price of a second or replacement battery for the bike you are considering, as Lithium batteries can pack up after a year or two at worst, and rarely last more than three or four..

Secondhand? Buying e-bikes secondhand can be risky because of battery/electrical issues and higher general wear and tear. Unless you are very confident around ebikes, go for one of the many good new bikes out there suitable for different pockets.

Note: The more general thoughts and recommendations here are a result of my direct experience, brands/models/dealers are mentioned here are because of familiarity whilst reading around the subject, or their locality. They are not a personal recommendation.

Always research well and then see/try bikes and dealers yourself.       Happy e-biking!

Richard Attwood. Sheffield.

What happens when people try to report their tram accidents to the ‘authorities’?

We have been told by an employee of Sheffield City Council that the reason no action has been taken about cyclist accidents on the tram tracks over the last 20 years is that people do not report their accidents, so the council is not aware that there is a problem.

We ask the people (306 so far) who have reported accidents to us whether they tried to report it to anyone else (Sheffield Council, Stagecoach Supertram, South Yorkshire Police, South  Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive). This is what they said:

“Contacted the city council but was met by a distinct lack of interest. Suggested I should use the road parallel to white lane but of course this would have meant that I would have to cross both sets of tracks twice to continue my journey which, with the amount of traffic would make it even more dangerous.”

“I was told there was nothing that could be done.”

“Reported it onto the city council’s report system online”

“reported on 20/08/15 on 101”

“I did not report it as I had a similar accident in 2012 and had negative response from supertram”

“I tried to report it to the police via 101 and they insisted that it was not reportable.”

“Supertram, they were not in the slightest interested and told me I should have gotten off my bike and walked across the junction.”

“Reported on 101 on 18/08/15.”

“Reported on 101 on 11/08/15”

“I phoned 101 and they did not want to know. Frankly they were a little patronising. They asked if by bike I meant motorbike, and if another vehicle was involved. They then informed me that because I just fell off my “pushbike” it’s not a police matter. We had a little discussion about this, and apparently their colleagues backed them up. The woman wasn’t going to budge and refused to file a report. I phoned 101 back again. Once again got absolute nowhere. The woman had never heard of a STATS19 form and informed me once again that it was not a police matter.”

“I’ve just reported the accident to the police for their records too (although the lady on the phone didn’t seem particularly interested).”

“The tram company but no response”

“Yes to the Council in 2014”

“Reported accident to Stagecoach on 26/07/2014”

“I did as you asked and basically got nowhere. The first question was on what date did the accident happen, I gave her the date and said I am only reporting it because I was asked to by yourselves. The person said as there was no damage and no 3rd party that I should not report it. ( I rather got the impression that she thought I was wasting her time ). She then began to tell me that if there were injuries or third party involvement I had to report in person and fill in some sort of form. I was not asked about the location of the accident .”

“Reported to Sheffield Council on 18/03/2015”

I called 101 to log my bike accident on the tracks. It was logged as a closed incident.  They did not consider it an accident, such as vehicle crash and could not find a catergory to put it under, but the incident is logged.”

“I’ve just called 101 and they told me to go to a police station either Moss Way, Snig Hill or Ecclesfield and I need to write in a book at the main desk. She would not take any of my details.”

“I called 101 but they said as it wasn’t involving a licensed motor vehicle they would not normally issue an incident number.”

“Yes, tram official on site”

“I reported the incident to the council initially who then referred me to Amey who then referred me to Supertram. I was just given the run around. I did start to go through one of these no win no fee companies but wasn’t really in it for any money, I just wanted it making safer for other users.”

“reported via Sheffield Council survey”

“enquired via police, council and first bus nobody wanted to know.”

“Not officially reported to Police, however a passing patrol car stopped to assist/called ambulance. No incident number was given.”

“Not a reportable RTC according to 101.”

“Reported to Sheffield City Council in 1997”

“I have been in touch with the City Council, and after Harry Harpham MP contacted them for me, they have added a warning to their cycling webpage (I had asked them before to do this, with no result). I was in touch with David Blunkett MP (before the election) and he contacted South Yorkshire PTE, who replied to him. I have been in touch with Supertram by letter but no response.”

“Yes to 101 on 29 July 2013.”

“I tried to do this on 101. I explained that I wanted to do it as I want it to be recognised as a serious incident. The report was declined as no third party was involved. I also looked at ways of informing the council as I have met several other people who have had similar accidents. Again I got nowhere.”

“reported to council in 2005”

“No. Well I emailed Statecoach Customer Services but didn’t hear back. I contacted Sheffield City Council about mine at the time and received a letter from the legal dept saying that they were in no way liable and didn’t see it as a problem – end of.”

“I did report mine and was passed from pillar to post – from council to SYPTE to Amey and back to the council.”

“To Supertram in 1995”

Minutes/notes from CycleSheffield meetings

We will upload the minutes/notes from our monthly meetings here.

4th of April 2016 meeting:

Minutes of CS meeting 040416

7th of July 2016 meeting:

Minutes of CS meeting 040716

2nd of August 2016 meeting:

Minutes of CS meeting 020816

6th of September 2016 meeting:

CycleSheffield meeting 060916

4th of October 2016 meeting

Minutes of CS meeting 041016

1st of November 2016 meeting

Minutes of CS meeting 011116

13th of December 2016 meeting

Minutes of CS meeting 131216

3rd of January 2017 meeting

Minutes of CS meeting 030117

Sheffield City Council resources/documents

Tram Cycle Safety Action Plan, December 2016

South Yorkshire Cycling Action Plan, April 2015

Sheffield City Council  Cycling Inquiry report, 2014

Sheffield City Council review of Cycling In Sheffield 2008 – 2013

South Yorkshire Cycle Action Plan, 2011

Cycle Audit of Risks and Safety Issues on Tram Routes at White Lane and Hillsborough, produced by Pedal Ready for Sheffield City Council, 2008

Sheffield City Council Cycling Action Plan, July 2006

Sheffield City Council cycle parking guidelines

Investigation into cyclist safety on the Supertram network in Sheffield, Sheffield City Council 1998

What is Space for Cycling?

Space for Cycling is about creating the conditions where riding a bike is a realistic choice for everyone, regardless of age or ability.

It means more people get an appealing alternative to driving, which brings everyone benefits like reduced traffic noise, more friendly neighbourhoods, improved air quality and more freedom for children to play outside.

Protected space on main roads and through junctions


Major roads and junctions can be threatening which deters many people from cycling. Yet they are often the most direct routes from A to B. With good cycle planning, anyone should be able to use these routes safely and comfortably.

Lower traffic speeds


Lowering traffic speeds improves safety for everyone, including people riding bikes. It creates a more pleasant environment where walking and cycling are enjoyable and local neighbourhoods are more pleasant places to live.

Reduced through-traffic


Rat-running blights communities and can make travelling by bike intimidating. Pleasant cycling and walking routes can be created by closing a road to through-traffic but leaving it open for bicycles and people walking.

Safe routes to schools


Many Sheffield schools offer cycle training but very few children are able to ride their bikes to school.  Road danger is a huge worry for Sheffield parents which keeps walking and cycling levels low.

People-friendly town and city centres


Public spaces which are not dominated by motor traffic encourage people to spend time there. They are more pleasant places to work, shop and spend time. Think of European café culture: the result of streets which revolve around people, not motor traffic.

Traffic-free routes in green spaces

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Walking and cycling in green spaces is pleasant and can enhance city life. Routes through parks and green spaces complement direct routes along main roads but should not be seen as an alternative to a cycle-friendly road network.

What to do if you’re involved in a road collision when cycling

Rather than attempt to re-write some of the excellent existing resources provided by the CTC, I will link to the most useful bits.

Are there are pre-emptive measures I can take?

CTC Membership includes free legal advice on cycle-related matters, including following a road traffic collision. Membership also includes third party insurance in the event of claims for accidental damage made against you or your cycle.

What to do if you’ve been involved in road collision

You can find detailed and practical advice on what to do in the event of a cycle road collision courtesy of the CTC’s Road Justice campaign here.

Contact the CTC Incident Line even if you are not a CTC member as legal advice may still be available, though on different terms to those available to CTC members.

What to do if you’ve crashed on tram lines

You can report tram crashes via CycleSheffield are collecting this information to help us understand how common these types of crashes are and where they happen.

Why it is SO IMPORTANT to report your collision to the police

The police have a duty to accept reports of all road collisions which result in an injury (even if minor). This includes single vehicle incidents. Even if the case is not pursued, the police must record details of the collision by filling in something called a STATS 19 form. The data collected via STATS 19 is lumped together, anonymised and published annually. It is used by local authorities to identify the roads where the most collisions take place, and which should qualify for safety improvements.

If you do not report your collision then this data does not reflect a true picture of cycle collisions on our roads.