A CYCLING group has made more than 250 deliveries of books during the pandemic for a town book shop.

Together with 30-year-old independent Bicester business, Coles Books, volunteers from Bicester Bike Users' Group (BicesterBUG) wanted to provide a local and sustainable alternative to delivery vans whizzing around streets.

ALSO READ: Bike shops stay open in lockdown but warn of supply chain problems

Before the pandemic, the bookshop in Crown Walk was already offering a limited local delivery service and had the advantage of daily deliveries from its book distributor, meaning delivery times were feasible.

Its owner Nigel French and BicesterBUG came up with a scheme to use local bike riders to expand the offering of local deliveries, with a sustainable twist.

Chair of BicesterBUG George Bennett said: "Then the lockdown hit and the idea suddenly became not just a nice to have experiment but a crucial way to enable the business."

Coles Books launched the offer of free local delivery and BicesterBUG members provided the means to get the book deliveries out to customers, not just within Bicester but also the neighbouring villages; Chesterton, Ambrosden, Arncott and Fringford.

Mr Bennett added: "Little did we know how much fun it would be and how appreciative the customers were. Sometimes we were met with slight confusion at the doorstep, probably due to the lack of uniform and rumbling diesel van in the background.

ALSO READ: Bicester part of £3m cash boost to get more people cycling and walking

"The overwhelming feedback was positive both in terms of the sustainability of our little enterprise but also the cold hard fact that it made good business sense.

"We were able to deliver faster, more flexibly and with a significantly lower carbon footprint than the alternatives, be that ordering from Amazon, Coles sending by a traditional courier or even customers driving to the town centre to pick up the book."

As of the end of 2020 the group had delivered more than 250 packages for the bookshop with most packages containing multiple books and saw an increase in deliveries in December.

Mr French, who is the third owner of the shop which he has been running since 2008, says the initiative is 'perfect'.

He said: "It's been a great opportunity for us. It's the most perfect way to deliver books to customers.

"It's been fabulous for them to do it in a low carbon way and they demonstrate that deliveries can be made by bike.They've been an excellent example of the community pulling together during this time of difficulty."

BicesterBUG has put the deliveries on hold since the start of the third lockdown, but hopes to start again as soon as possible.

ALSO READ: Road works in Bicester aim to get thousands more cycling and walking

Mr Bennett added: "This may seem like a tiny gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it represents to BicesterBUG and wider Bicester the shape of things to come.

"In Oxford the indefatigable Pedal & Post company are running multiple bikes throughout the city making not only traditional deliveries but also carrying medical samples and supplies between the hospitals.

"Their reactiveness and ability to cut through traffic makes them highly competitive and sustainable, proving that bikes are valuable business tools not just toys.

"Even the big boys like DHL and UPS are joining the bike logistic revolution providing the type of win win business we need going forward.

"So hopefully here in humble Bicester we can also be part of the green shoots of recovery as we Build Back Better post Covid."