BUSINESSMEN in Southend will be encouraged to use electric bikes to get around town.

Southend Council is piloting the innovative project after receiving a £12,000 handout from the Government.

Council bosses want to loan hi-tech bikes to firms whose employees will be urged to use them instead of their cars.

It is hoped the scheme will help ease car parking and traffic problems in the borough.

Collette Kemp, marketing officer for cycling organisation Cycle Southend, welcomed the idea.

She said: “When you’re working in central Southend, it’s a nightmare to park.

“People can use these bikes to go to meetings without having to spend all day trying to find a space.

“I’m not sure how green the bikes are because there’s carbon being used in the manufacturing process and their batteries need recharging. But anything that gets more people cycling is a good idea.”

The council is still deciding which brand of electric bike to use and sorting out which businesses will be involved in the pilot.

Hatti Lee, director of electric bike shop Woosh Bikes, in Queen’s Road, Southend, added: “This should ease a lot of the traffic problems we have here – congestion is particularly bad in this area.”

However, Mike Hoy, Green councillor for Rochford’s Hullbridge ward, said the council should be focusing on making cycling in Southend safer.

He said: “Electric bikes are not the way to go. People don’t feel safe when they ride their bike in Southend.

“The council has done some good work with cycle routes, but not enough.”

The E-bikes project is funded by the Government’s £1.04million Climate Change Skills Fund for the East of England, part of a nationwide effort to push local councils to become more environmentally aware.