Can an Ebike make you ride more?

It’s an alarming and somewhat uncomfortable fact that 70%+ of trips between two and five miles are driven. This often leads to congestion in our towns and cities which, in turn, is a cause of air and noise pollution. The former being a silent killer and an attributed cause of tens of thousands of deaths every year. It’s a stubborn majority of people that seems set to continue unless habits change. Can an Ebike make you ride more?

Are drivers just lazy? In truth, some probably are but for most there are a number of reasons they may choose a car over cycling for such short journeys.

The pandemic saw a cycling boom. COVID tested (pun not intended!) what we all wanted to know. If roads are safer (ie less traffic and/or segregated cycling infrastructure) will more people jump on a bike? The answer was clearly yes.

The reasons to take up cycling are unequivocal: environment, cost, health. However we’re arguably late to the party capitalising on the positive legacy that COVID left us. Much-needed habitual change is difficult to nurture. In contrast, the car, despite being one of the most inefficient, dirtiest forms of transit, retains appeal for numerous reasons – safety, the weather or just the comfort of a nice warm interior with the radio on. Many of us have the will to find an alternative but fail or are reluctant to find the way.

Changing Behaviour

Changing people’s behaviour is not easy easy – unless it’s made easy for the masses. Clever marketing by car manufacturers have sold us the dream of driving uninhibited on open roads for decades. Just watch any car advert. You’ll never see another car or traffic. Trying to flick people out of this mindset is a challenge. However with Climate Change in our ear and affecting all of us more and more we maybe at a tipping point now when those who would probably have always covered their ears may begin to listen and understand the benefits of electric bikes replacing short journeys and second cars.

In Oslo, one long-term study of the Norwegian cycling community reached some encouraging conclusions on how an Ebike can naturally encourage riders to take longer trips and eventually ride more often too.

Further Reading

Comparing past data, researchers found that those who cycled would average just over a mile a day. However, with an Ebike, the average trip length increased by 340% to nearly 6 miles. Furthermore, the study also indicated that the effects of this could be greater in cities where more cycle, shorter journeys and infrastructure are more concentrated.

The data backed a theory that, with an increase in Ebike uptake, car journeys were perhaps being replaced too. The proportion of Ebike trips among riders rose from 17% to 49%, steadily removing car trips, public transport use and even some walking journeys. A compelling case for Ebikes. However considering the UK is always years behind the rest of Europe it may be some time before we see tangible results here.

If only the UK Government took evidence-based decisions about Transport policy rather than pander to drivers freezing fuel duty over and over again and cannibalising our Active Travel budget. For now we can only ponder what is possible.

The Commute

So we can see evidence suggests access to an electric bike can make you ride more. Commuting is one of the most common culprits for drivers making short journeys and an obvious choice for riders that want to make the switch. It doesn’t have to all be done in one go either and there is no rule thats says you can’t use your car occasionally for bad weather, for example. Any commute journey replaced by bike is one less car causing traffic, air and noise pollution. A fact that shouldn’t be forgotten.

If you could ride to work and save enough on fuel and servicing of your car to pay for your ebike, that must be incentive enough for people to ride more right? Education is often key. People need to be shown the way or given access to a demo, trial or test ride to convince them they can do it.

I began commuting 12 miles each way 4 days a week a few years ago in my last job. My commute, on a non-electric bike, took me 50 mins and 25-30 mins in my car. I occasionally used my car more than once a week and sometimes I rode 5 days a week. I worked out I saved between £800-£1000 a year on fuel alone, not withstanding wear and tear, depreciation and servicing costs. Additionally I got pretty fit, lost weight, slept well and enjoyed whatever food and drink I wanted. If I can do it, anyone definitely can. The hardest bit was establishing a routine then it just becomes part of your normal, daily life. Would I have ridden more with an Ebike? Almost definitely. On Mondays I always drove to take my clothes in for the week so I didn’t have to carry them but that wouldn’t have mattered on an electric bike, so I would definitely have ridden Mondays too and probably longer routes home occasionally as well.

cyclist with back pack riding a Cube Compact

Good Habits

Working with customers in-store you quite often strike up relationships and rapport with them and become part of their journey.

Anecdotally I can say we’ve helped customers lose weight and recover from illness and injury. Rehabilitation post-op is common too. All achieved on habits born out of enjoying the freedom an Ebike gives you.

One particular customer stands out. They bought an electric mountain bike off me and went away happy and started to ride regularly. Rides were more fun and consequently they rode further and more often than was ever possible on a non-electric. Throw in a calorie-controlled diet they had undertaken too and the result was a two stone weight loss in a month. An amazing story that reinforces that fact Ebikes can make you ride more. It’s just great fun.

Common Sense

So, can Ebikes make you ride more? In short Yes. We’ve acknowledged the benefits are pretty clear. Environment, cost and health. Throw in some fun and a sprinkling of freedom and you have a compelling case to ride short journeys normally driven. The evidence is there. Ride an Ebike, you eventually ride further and ride more often. People just enjoy them because they can go anywhere. We call it the #ebikesmile.

a cyclist riding an eMTB offroad
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