Image: Kārlis Dambrāns, via Flickr.
A recent feature in the Guardian highlighted the benefits and pitfalls of electric bicycles, questioning whether they are ‘the way forward’ for commuters.
Published on 1 July, the Guardian feature follows the experiences of electric bicycle ‘convert’ Philip Dalton, who says ditching the car in favour of his electric bike (or e-bikes as they are known) has transformed his daily commute.
Philip Dalton said: “The e-bike is brilliant as it helps me keep a good speed climbing up the hills, meaning that when I get to work I’m not exhausted. It’s almost as fast as taking the car, plus it’s a great way to start the day. I love it.”
An e-bike is a regular bike with a battery and electric motor added. The motor kicks in automatically as soon as the rider starts pedalling, although some models let the rider choose when the motor starts and adjust how much help is provided.
However, the motor cannot do all the hard work, as e-bikes are neither mini scooters nor mopeds. For e-bikes to be road legal in the UK the motor can only kick in once the rider starts pedalling and will cut out once a speed of 15mph is reached.
The walking and cycling charity Sustrans says e-bikes have the potential to transform cycling for many people, including commuters.
Jason Torrance, policy director, told the Guardian: “With leadership and urgent action from government, e-bikes could also tackle the public health emergency of poor air quality by making cycling a realistic travel choice for everyone.”
However, a major difference between e-bikes and regular bikes is the cost – most e-bikes are priced at upwards of £1,000.
The Guardian feature says a smart way to ease the financial pain is to sign up to a cycle-to-work scheme. The government-backed initiative can knock up to 40% off the cost of a new bike through salary sacrifice. However, the maximum spend is £1,000 which rules out almost all e-bikes.
To resolve this issue, the Green Commute Initiative (GCI) has recently been launched, specifically targeting the e-bike market with a mission to get more commuters out of their cars – thereby cutting air pollution and traffic congestion.
The Guardian feature concludes: “With the battery costing less than 10p to recharge, plus an annual service charge of about £50, the financial benefits of e-bikes are compelling.”
Want to know more about cycling and road safety?
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory