Swapping a car for an e-bike

A cyclist on an ebike, carrying panniers along a coastal road.
The beautiful Scottish island of Islay is only 239 square miles – perfect for everyday cycling. Local distillery worker, Peter McCuaig, now makes most journeys by e-bike, after he attended a Big Bike Revival event

Peter, 63, had never been interested in cycling until he tried out an electric bike at a Big Bike Revival event organised by his place of work, Bruichladdich Distillery. Now, he rarely leaves home without it.

The event – which involved bike maintenance sessions, led rides and e-bike try-outs – inspired Peter to buy an e-bike of his own and leave his car at home. “I’ve never been a bike user before – never would have thought about it,” he says. “When I tried [an e-bike] out at Bruichladdich, I thought it was brilliant and I wanted to give it a go.”

Bruichladdich distillery is nestled on the Rinns of Islay – a peninsula attached to the scenic island. Islay is known as the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ and is home to less than 4,000 people. The rugged island is a popular tourist destination with picturesque coastal villages and mountainous landscapes.

I use it for everything, there's not a day I'm not using it

Peter McCuaig

The Big Bike Revival event enabled people on Islay to access e-bike loans for the first time – working with Home Energy Scotland to bring their fleet of bikes to the island. After trying out one of the e-bikes, Peter went from never riding a bike to cycling 12 miles a day. “I use it for everything, there’s not a day I’m not using it,” he adds.

A few months in and he is already feeling the mental and physical benefits of cycling every day. “It makes me more fit and active; I’m really enjoying it.”

Using his e-bike has even made Peter more sociable; he often stops and chats to local people that he would never encounter while driving. He doesn’t need to worry about finding a parking spot when he pops to the shops either.

The e-bike is perfect for Peter because it gives him an extra push when cycling on a steep incline. E-bikes have an integrated electric motor which assists manual pedal power. “It’s easier when it comes to hills; I’m quite short of breath, so it helps,” Peter says.

Electric assistance is provided for up to 15.5 miles per hour – making e-bikes perfect for replacing car journeys in places like Islay. Peter gets extra exercise along flatter ground, where he often switches the electric assist off.

Although e-bikes are more expensive than the equivalent regular bike – prices typically start around £1,000 – if you’re replacing car journeys with e-bike journeys, they can soon pay for themselves.

In Scotland, the Energy Saving Trust also offers an interest free e-bike loan for up to £3,000, with a repayment period of four years.

Peter’s e-bike has enabled him to see all the beautiful parts of the island. “The things you see – it’s amazing when you’re not in a car,” he adds. “It’s definitely worth the money.”