Do you have an E-bike? And if you do, how do you use it and does it increase the amount you bicycle?
I have an old used e-bike, a prototype that was developed for the City of Toronto. It is heavy to lift, has a cumbersome battery, but is absolutely reliable. I paid two hundred dollars for it years ago from a retired mechanic’s garage sale. He had kitted it out with a windshield and two wire mesh panniers which turned out to be perfect for hauling groceries and beer. I would not part with my e-bike for anything.
Under current ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) rules, the power output of e-bikes cannot exceed 500 watts, and maximum speed cannot exceed 32 km/h. It must have pedals, cannot be gas powered and you must be 16 years or older to operate one.
Aslak Fyhri and Hanne Beate Sundfør at the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo Norway have just published a study in Transport and Research asking the question: Do people with e-bikes cycle more? And what is the best way to collect that data, through demonstration trials or by asking e-bike users for data?
The study and the results are open access at Science Direct.
The researchers found that people that purchased an e-bike more than doubled their use of cycling. They also found that the increase in cycling was not due to being part of a demonstration research project in that people who purchased e-bikes for their personal use also experienced more cycling for transport.
“People who purchased an e-bike increased their bicycle use from 2.1 to 9.2 km per day on average, representing a change in bike as share of all transport from 17 to 49 percent.”
Previous studies of e-bike usage has been retrospective (talking about change of use after e-bike purchase) or cross-sectional (reviewing e-bike users with conventional cyclists at one point in time). This study included a before and after analysis with a “comparison group using a survey with a travel diary to capture changes in travel behaviour.”
The researchers found the “e-bike effect”, the change in kilometres cycled after purchase of an e-bike was 6.1 kilometres. This difference was the same for people who had an e-bike on loan for a short time and for people who had actually purchased e-bikes and used them daily.
The researchers conclude that e-bikes can reduce impact on the environment by moving people away from motorized transportation modes and that distance travelled more than doubled with an e-bike.
“We find that the increased cycling is not just a novelty effect, but appears to be more lasting. Our study thus indicates that policy makers can expect a positive return of policy measures aimed at increasing the uptake of e-bikes, such as subvention schemes etc.”
I’ve had an e-bike for a year. The odometer is pushing 800km. Considering that I hadn’t had a bike for a few years before that, those are 800km I hadn’t ridden in the previous year. Here’s the more interesting number: I’ve recharged it twice so far. That means 400km per charge. The bike was advertised as going between 60km and 100km per charge depending on the level of power used and the steepness of the slopes. What that means is that at least 600 of those kilometers were ridden without any power assist. And that’s the fascinating thing: having the power assist whenever I want it means that I don’t end up wanting it very much. But when I do, it is glorious — particularly the time I flew up Mt Maxwell at 30k, laughing all the way.