Bury St Edmunds 'Bicycle Bus' put through its paces by Bury Rickshaw as town trial gets underway
An eleven-seater 'bicycle bus' is being put through its paces in Bury St Edmunds with a view to it becoming a permanent service for school children.
The trial, which will run for a month, has so far involved training volunteer 'rider -drivers' - including in reverse - trying the bicycle bus on different roads, and testing it out with children.
The four metre long, six-geared bicycle is currently on loan to the town's Bury Rickshaw charity.
If successful, the charity will start fund-raising to buy one its own - at a project cost of £15,000, which will also include insurance, garaging, training and a rain cover.
"We have so far used the bike to deliver Christmas meals cooked at West Suffolk College to people in town - and volunteers have also been trying it out with their children," said Libby Ranzetta, one of the founders of Bury Rickshaw.
"We have been testing on different kinds of roads and when the schools go back, we'll be trialling it with them, depending on what's possible at the time. We are still working out the logistics of the service, if we do go ahead, but may involve collection points for pupils and several trips a day."
"It's going great so far. Everybody loves it and can't help smiling".
Bury Rickshaw provides free 'fun-rides' for socially isolated residents around the town and collects surplus food from shops for homelessness charities. It also collected prescriptions for residents during the pandemic.
The charity is hoping to buy a bicycle bus as part of an active travel scheme it wants to develop, initially with Guildhall Feoffment School, St Edmunds Catholic Primary School, Churchgate Area Association and the West Suffolk Hive.
The proposed scheme will also include 'walking buses', sometimes known as 'crocodiles', scooting and cycle buses.
The idea is to encourage active travel to school and reduce car travel to benefit children's health and the environment.
The Bicycle Bus in loan from Evesham Adventure Playground Association, Worcestershire.
Greene King is garaging the bike and St Edmunds Care have bought the children's helmets for the trial.
The bike can take two adults and seven children pedalling, plus two small non-pedalling children.
It has electric battery power assistance and powerful brakes.
Bury Rickshaw provides it services with the motto "more smiles per mile".
The bicycle bus is believed to be one of two currently in the UK.
If the trial proves a success, the bike will be purchased direct from the manufacturer in the Netherlands.