Electric bike owners progressively use cars less, finds study

A new study on the behavioural habits of new electric bike riders has concluded that increasingly they leave the car at home as time goes on.

The finding is attributed in part to people discovering that a motor-driven tailwind will take them further than they perhaps previously could have gone by bicycle. In fact, the researchers discovered that electric bike riders were averaging 340% longer journeys in a day, but also seemingly taking more journeys.

The data gathered found that typically cyclists would cover an average of 1.3 miles, while electric bike riders would bump that to a daily average of 5.7 miles. Based out of Oslo, Norway, where cycling rates are not as high as they are in neighbouring parts of Europe, the authors argue that the effects could be broader where cycle culture is given a chance to thrive.

As part of the electric bike’s share of trips made, the average tally grew very quickly to reach 49% of trips made from 17% previously when cycling. That meant that the e-Bike quickly began to cannibalise trips that would otherwise have been driven, taken by public transit or walked. Perhaps more interesting is that pedal-powered trips remained fairly static.

Fearing that the trend would tail off as the novelty wore off, the researchers took extra time to assess the trend and actually found that over time users were actually riding more. They also had the benefit of working with a comparison group of prospective e-Bike buyers. This, says the authors, showed that “studies that do not include a comparison group run the risk of over or under-estimating the influence of an e-bike, depending on time of year.”

“The evidence from our data works against a novelty effect (Sun et al., 2020) for short term users. Rather, it confirms previous findings indicating that people tend to go through a learning process where they discover new trip purposes for where to use the e-bike (Dill & Rose, 2012),” says the paper.

The research actually has roots dating back as far as 2014 when separate initial surveys were sent to to a pool of new e-Bike users, meaning that seasonal change could be factored in to the findings. In total, travel diaries from 954 participants were tracked detailing how people moved.

“The fact that the observed results are the same when comparing with a broader more representative sample of the population could potentially have direct implications for calculations of the socio-economic benefits of supporting e-bikes,” wrote the research authors, speculating that the e-Bike’s potential to change transport patterns could be exponential with the right promotion from policy makers.

“The “E-bike effect”, i.e. the change in cycled kms from before to after for the customer group was 6.1 kms (representing a cycling share of 28 percent) relative to the comparison group. In our 2013 study, participants were given an e-bike to use for two weeks’ time. Here we found an “e-bike effect” of 6.6 km (20 percent cycling share). Taking the effect sizes into consideration, the huge change we found in cycling activity for short-term e-bike users is replicated with actual customers. If anything, the change in cycling share is somewhat larger than it was for the short-term users.”

The study’s findings can be read in full here.

Related: Is using an e-Bike cheating? These bodies of research dispel a persistent myth.
(Image courtesy of Bosch)