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Will e-bikes help the environment? - Conservation

Will e-bikes help the environment?

Electric bicycles, which include a motor to boost pedal-power, will reduce emissions if people use them instead of driving their cars. But critics have pointed out that if e-bikes simply replace regular bikes, “there would be no benefit to either the environment or public health,” researchers in Norway write in Transportation Research Part D.

To investigate whether e-bikes would encourage people to cycle more, the team asked members of the Norwegian Automobile Federation, a consumer organization, if they wanted to try out an e-bike. The researchers then divided interested participants into two groups: one was assigned to use e-bikes for two or four weeks, and the other was not. Each person also filled out travel diaries and surveys about trips taken by bike, e-bike, car, and other modes of transportation. Sixty-six e-bike users and 160 non-users completed the trial.

People in the control group reported no changes in their bicycling habits over the course of the study. But in the e-bike group, the average number of cycling trips per day rose from 0.9 to 1.4, and the distance cycled per day roughly doubled. Before the trial, people in the e-bike group had cycled for less than one-third of their total distance travelled; during the trial, they cycled for nearly half the distance.

The researchers saw bigger jumps in the number of bike trips among women than men. And e-bikes seemed to appeal equally to young and old participants.

While part of the bump in cycling was probably due to users’ excitement at playing with their new toys, the users didn’t abandon the e-bikes once the novelty had worn off. Instead, “e-bike users appeared to pick up new and more ways and purposes for using the e-bike as the trial period proceeded,” the authors write. Roberta Kwok | 19 March 2015

Source: Fyhri, A. and N. Fearnley. 2015. Effects of e-bikes on bicycle use and mode share. Transportation Research Part D doi: 10.1016/j.trd.2015.02.005.

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