Ebike by Periera / Adobe Stock

A new study from the EU-funded PASTA project has profiled hundreds of e-bike users across 7 European cities and found that e-bikers take longer trips by e-bike and bicycle when compared to typical cyclists. E-bikes might therefore be used for longer commuting trips than non-electric bicycles.

Even though the physical effort is less on an e-bike per mile travelled, the researchers found that, due to the increased distances travelled on e-bikes, the physical activity gains from active travel is similar in e-bikers and cyclists across the 7 cities. So, e-bikers may compensate, at least in part, the lower effort per mile of e-biking by traveling longer distances.

The study also explored the potential impacts of mode shift across the much larger PASTA sample. If all car trips were swapped with e-bike travel, individuals would gain physical activity levels of about 550 MET min/week (physical activity levels are measured in Metabolic Equivalent Task minutes per week). 550 MET min/week is equivalent to a person spending approximately 3 hours a week (180 mins) expending 3 times the energy used by the body at rest (3 MET).

The paper, which was published in Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, supports the notion of e-bikes as a healthy and sustainable transport option and makes two key recommendations to planners:

  • That “to accommodate (or promote) this new demand and to avoid conflicts with other road users in urban areas, cycling infrastructure should be expanded and may need to be adapted to accommodate higher speeds and address safety needs.”;
  • And that “the health benefits in terms of physical activity of using e-bikes, particularly when replacing car trips, should be factored in when considering subsidising e-biking.”