According to the Bicycle Association (BA), the UK is falling behind regarding green transport because it is failing to promote e-bikes alongside electric cars (EVs).
The cycle industry trade body is arguing that incentives to boost e-bikes are better value, more equitable and healthier than subsidising EVs, backed up by research from consultancy Transport for Quality of Life.
The research shows that the cost of saving a kilogram of CO2 via schemes to boost e-bike use is less than half the cost of existing grants for EVs, and at a cost per purchase of less than one tenth of the grant for EVs.
The BA believes that EVs will play a key role in ‘decarbonising’ all forms or transport, but argues that e-bikes should be a top priority for urgent government support.
The findings were launched today at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) in the Houses of Parliament, attended by MPs, officials and decision-makers.
According to the report, e-bike use is steadily growing in the UK with around 60,000 sold last year, although they only made up 3% of the bike market. In mainland Europe, however, a variety of incentives and initiatives used by regional and national governments to promote e-bikes saw almost one million e-bikes sold in Germany alone last year.
The evidence showed that around half of all trips by e-bike replace a trip that would have been made by car. Generally used for longer trips than conventional bikes, e-bikes’ potential to reduce carbon emissions, air pollution and congestion is correspondingly greater.
In the eyes of the BA, e-bikes are now ready for mass adoption due to harbouring none of the barriers to wider EV ownership, such as high purchase prices, range anxiety or a need for an expensive charging infrastructure, applying to e-bikes.
Steve Garidis, Executive Director of the BA, said: “The time is right for national government and city regions to kick-start wider e-bike uptake with purchase incentive schemes. The results in terms of CO2 and congestion reduction will be fast and at a remarkably low cost – a game changer in clean urban transport.”
Chris Boardman, Greater Manchester Walking and Cycling Commissioner, added: “I can see the huge potential of e-bikes, they are the perfect tool to entice many people who don’t want to be a cyclist, out of the car.
“I wholeheartedly support any measures that make that choice easier and I am very keen that Greater Manchester becomes the first Demo Region to pilot measures to give people this viable alternative to driving. I will work with both the industry and government to explore how we make that happen as quickly as possible.”
Alongside advocating purchase incentives for personal e-bikes, the BA also believes there is potential to build on the existing DfT grants scheme for e-cargo bikes, which could replace nearly one in three delivery trips by van.
In a second report commissioned by the BA from Transport for Quality of Life, evidence shows that up to 30% of commercial van journeys in urban areas could be substituted by e-cargo bike deliveries, with significant scope to reduce congestion and air pollution.
Among measures called for in the report are ‘Demonstration Cities’, which could intensively trial e-cargo bike logistics, encourage public sector procurement of e-cargo bike services, provide community e-cargo bikes for public use, and help develop best practice for future national roll-out.
The BA is calling on policy-makers at national and city-region level to realise the potential of e-bikes and e-cargo bikes as existing, readily-available and game-changing technology.