E-bikes present an opportunity for modal shift

E-bikes ‘can cause significant modal shift,’ according to review of more than 100 studies 

Electric bikes could cause a ‘significant modal shift’ while also improving health an mobility in an eco-friendly way, according to a newly published review of more than 107 academic studies.

A review, published in the November 2022 edition of the Transport Policy journal, has explored the potential impacts of pedal-assist e-bikes (PAEB) as their popularity grows.

Researchers from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Canada identified 107 articles on e-bikes, to highlight the potential impacts and limitations of the technology. 

The review found that the global e-bike market is  to grow from $25 billion to $48 billion by 2028 and that by 2023, 300 million e-bikes are expected to be in operation worldwide. 

In the discussion section of the paper, the researchers said: “An important insight from this work is that PAEB use has the potential to reduce our reliance on personal cars for short distance trips. This is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

“It is critical to note that a significant modal shift would be necessary to significantly impact transportation related emissions. However, this is exactly what is needed. In order to meet climate mitigation and well-being targets, municipalities should support the uptake of PAEB by creating connected, protected, and accessible infrastructure.” 

The review also found that crashes, violations and injuries appear to be at similar levels on both e-bikes and traditional bikes, but that there is a misperception that higher speeds on e-bikes would lead to more harm. E-bike riders end to keep their speed limit below the locally-determined legal limits, according to the researchers’ findings. 

Age, gender, and income were all found to impact uptake of electric bikes, and that subsidy schemes may be needed to promote uptake across socioeconomic groups. 

Read more: Bike subscription service Swapfiets awarded B Corp status 

The researchers added: “In conclusion, this body of work reveals the potential for PAEB use to transform personal transportation towards a mode that is eco-friendly, age-friendly, barrier-free, healthy, and cost-effective. Given the increasing use of PAEB, there are several opportunities for increasing adoption through PAEB friendly policies and programs. There are also important opportunities for future research. Specifically, research is needed to understand long-term behaviour change with regards to PAEB adoption for commuting throughout the year after implementation of a variety of supportive policies and programs (e.g. subsidies, improved infrastructure, policies that prioritise active transportation).” 

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