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New study finds that e-bike riders quadrupled their cycling distance over a six month period

The Norwegian study found e-bike customers more than doubled their use of the bicycle for transport, and cycled an average of 9.2km a day compared to 2.1km before buying an e-bike

In a further debunking of the idea that e-bikes are 'cheating', a new longitudinal study has found that e-bike riders undoubtedly cycle more and drive less. The researchers found that amongst participants who had purchased an e-bike, total journeys made by bike compared to other modes of transport went up from 17% to 49%, and their average cycling distance per day more than quadrupled. 

E-bike riders get MORE exercise than regular cyclists

The study from Aslak Fyhri and Hanne Beate Sundfør, titled 'Do people who buy e-bikes cycle more?', analysed cycling data from respondents who had bought an e-bike, compared to another group who were interested in buying an e-bike, and another control group recruited through the Falck National Register of Bicycle Owners - all participants lived in or near the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

The researchers said that previously, some trials into e-bike usage were often short-term, and participants rented bikes over a test period. Others were retrospective and involved participants reporting on their activity levels, or just compared e-bikers with regular bike users at one point in time (like the research covered on our sister site eBikeTips). The data from this study was collected over six months, to see if the good habits stuck amongst those who had took the plunge and bought themselves an e-bike. 

it turned out that positive results of previous trials were replicated over a longer period of time emphatically, with e-bike owners increasing their bicycle use from 2.1 kilometres to 9.2 kilometres a day on average over the time period. There was also a big change in how many trips were taken by bike compared to other modes of transport such as driving, walking or public transport, with the e-bike owner group taking 49% of all journeys by e-bike compared to 17% before their purchase. 

In comparison, the group who were interested in buying an e-bike but still used a regular pedal cycle shown very little change in cycling over the same period: "The results show that the large change in cycling we previously found of a trial scheme with e-bikes is replicated with actual customers. The change in cycling share is somewhat larger than it was for the short-term users, showing that mode change from e-bikes is not just a novelty effect", said the researchers.

In conclusion, the study recommends that e-bikes are increasingly becoming "an essential part of the urban transport system", and appear more likely to shift people away from using motor vehicles than non-powered cycles.

The researchers add: "Our results confirm previous studies, but provides more controlled data about mode change from e-bikes than previously has been shown. People who buy an e-bike have more than a twofold increase in their use of bicycle for daily travel."

Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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35 comments

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wtjs | 3 years ago
0 likes

I have a theory, as yet unsupported by observation, that the ebikes which have become so prevalent in summer sunshine will become hen's teeth rare when the winter rains arrive. This will strongly suggest, to my mind at least, that people on ebikes are, by and large, not real cyclists- the definition of those, for people about to ask as what they fondly imagine is a razor-sharp debating point, is 'people who keep cycling when it's not comfy'. After all, the claimed advantages of 'assisted cycling' remain in adverse conditions- except rather more so. So, I'm expecting the protagonists to be out there with their cameras- for obvious reasons, self-filming not accepted!

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Captain Badger replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
8 likes

Jeez, you're still not banging that drum are you?

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
7 likes

I have a theory that lots of cyclists don't cycle in the winter. I'm sorry that you don't see them as "real cyclists". Are they not worthy to be on the roads with us real ones?  If these summer cyclists or e-bikes users are in an accident do you discount them as cycling stats as they aren't "real"? 

 

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Mungecrundle replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
6 likes

My chickens tend to stay inside when the weather is bad. They still lay eggs, so I guess they are still real chickens.

Maybe your definition based on "not being a real ..." unless you do it in all weathers really only applies to meteorologists?

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LetsBePartOfThe... | 3 years ago
1 like

Whilst the survey reports the increase in distance and the increase in trips by e-cyclists, it doesn't report whether there was an increase in cycling accrued.     
ie if someone switches from cycling to e-cycling are they then encouraged to cycle more overall ( time pedalling x effort applied ?? )    
If a cyclist switches to an e-bike and does 4x their usual distance, but the e-bike is twice as fast, and is twice as easy ( say )......then that means their level of actual cycling hasn't changed ( hope my logic is sound )

To me, the valid metrics for e-bikes would be:    
increase in actual cycling  - the human part
replaced car-miles

But overall I do support them as another form of cycling, and a replacement to car-usage

 

 

 

 

 

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Tom_77 replied to LetsBePartOfTheSolution | 3 years ago
2 likes

Since getting an e-bike I've swapped one unassisted leisure ride for 2 e-bike commuting rides. The unassisted ride was typically about 13 miles, average speed around 16mph. The e-bike rides are 33 miles each (66 miles total), average speed around 15mph.

Not sure about effort. My sports watch (Tom Tom) awards me "points", a 13 mile unassisted ride gets around 250 points and the 33 mile e-bike rides gets around 100 each. No idea how scientific that is (probably not very), seems to be based on how long I spend in various heart-rate zones.

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roadrunner23 | 3 years ago
4 likes

I'm all for e-bikes. They have the potential to be taken up by many people who would not look at commuting by bicycle otherwise. Once more people are actively cycling, e-biking, e-scootering into work or doing normal everyday trips then the demand for better infrastructure/policing will become irresistable. The e-bike flattens the hills and makes everywhere like Amsterdam.

Here's an idea I've long considered why not have large car free centres to our cities and towns? Force people to transfer to public transport, bike etc if they wish to reach the centre, I'm sure it will require some small alterations like residents permits, disabled access and a permit system for deliveries whilst at the same time lowering speed limits to 15 or 20 mph.

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Danbury | 3 years ago
9 likes

The article very much reflects my e-bike usage: carrying heavy stuff in panniers or trailer, and coping with hills and headwinds that my dodgy knees no longer want to countenance. About half my usage is for trips which would otherwise be made by car. 

At the lowest assistance setting the e-bike requires about as much effort to propel as my Boardman carbon road bike, but the latter won't cope with 50kg of shopping in a trailer, and would look really, really stupid. 

Most of the people I meet on e-bikes are older folk (like myself) who absolutely would not consider cycling in any shape or form without the help from the motor, and we should be celebrating the fact that more people on bikes of any kind means more pressure on the authorities to provide safe infrastructure, more safety in numbers for all cyclists, and folk getting some much needed exercise (yes, we do get exercise riding an e-bike, not as much as on a regular bike, but that's compensated for to degree by the greater usage).

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Sriracha | 3 years ago
5 likes

Well, ebikes have certainly done me a power of good, and I've never ridden one. The small group I ride with do, however, and keeping up has really given me a workout!

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago
12 likes

It does make me smile when I'm struggling up some hill and get overtaken by some lady on a shopping style bike with a basket on the front and kid on the back. At least I assume that they're on an e-bike.

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wtjs | 3 years ago
0 likes

It's definitely not cycling! You can identify them from a distance, because they're just moving their legs around effortlessly. In the same way as we have all observed with ourselves, where you find on a big hill that you're always in the lowest gear you have, these people just delude themselves that they're exercising while they're always on maximum assistance. We can allow them that they have adopted a low impact version of 'a drive in the country'

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Mungecrundle replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
15 likes

I'm pretty sure that the few people I know who own ebikes have absolutely no delusions that they are sporting legends. They use ebikes because the alternative might be to not cycle at all due to various health issues.

I can also completely understand the commuter looking for a low cost personal transport option which does not involve arriving lathered in sweat.

I'd be in favour of a whole class of sub 20mph electric vehicles such as escooters, C5 equivalents, ebikes etc which could be operated without need for licencing on restricted urban streets and cycleways. Every single one trumps the full size car on; cost, local environment, congestion and parking space, every single one would enhance the justification for cycle friendly infrastructure and resource allocation.

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Sriracha replied to Mungecrundle | 3 years ago
7 likes

Yup. We need to get to the point where motorists are clamouring for a segregated motor vehicle lane to keep them safe from the sheer mass of cycles etc using the other two lanes.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
5 likes

So what is your definition of cycling? Does a tandem count? How about a person cycling along slowly on a town bike? Hand cycle? 

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wtjs replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago
0 likes

So what is your definition of cycling?

It's not that tricky, really. Powered solely by the person(s) on it.

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hawkinspeter replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
8 likes
wtjs wrote:

So what is your definition of cycling?

It's not that tricky, really. Powered solely by the person(s) on it.

So you're not cycling if you're going downhill or have a really strong tailwind (if they actually exist)?

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David9694 replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
1 like

Picky picky picky 

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hawkinspeter replied to David9694 | 3 years ago
4 likes
David9694 wrote:

Picky picky picky 

Ta

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armb replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

So you're not cycling if you're going downhill or have a really strong tailwind (if they actually exist)?

 

If you're getting a truck or cable car to take your dedicated downhill bike to the top of a downhill course then you're taking part in a gravity sport like skiing or bobsleigh. Even then I wouldn't say it's "not cycling".

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Hirsute replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
2 likes

It's only assisted and you have to turn the pedals to get assistance. Also you can run out of battery.

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roadrunner23 replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago
0 likes

All of the above!

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Hirsute replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
13 likes

My BiL sent me a cutting of a 57 year old lady using one on the Devon coast. She got one as she could not cycle up the hill from her village and now uses it loads.

"has had a huge impact on my physical and mental health, my social life and sense of adventure. I've discovered places I would never have found on foot or by car...

It's the best way to beat horrendous holiday traffic".

Sounds pretty good to me.

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Philh68 replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
7 likes

If that's what you have to believe to feel better about yourself, ok yes

But take it from me, if I'm riding my 35kg cargo bike with 20kg of shopping on board and I'm still doing more than 25kmh, then I'm working way harder than you and the motor and battery is just dead weight. It's a workout.

 

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Captain Badger replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
7 likes

So? why do you care what other folk are riding? 

 

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wtjs replied to Captain Badger | 3 years ago
0 likes

So? why do you care what other folk are riding?

So? why do you care what other folk are writing? This delusional thinking is getting out of hand. Powered cycling is not cycling. It's easier and faster- that's why people indulge in it. No-one, as far as I know, is trying to ban them, they take up less space than cars and motor bikes, they emit no pollution locally and expose cyclists to no more danger than other cyclists. I say ''hello' to them just as I do to cyclists and walkers. They are, however, not cyclists while they''re on e-bikes.

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Captain Badger replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
4 likes

You made an (unsupported) statement. I responded with interest as to your motivation for that statement.

People riding bikes/ebikes/recumbents/cargo bikes are (probably) not making any particular statement. They're getting out and about on a bike.

Back to your statement. You seem keen to "other" people due to a variation between their bikes and yours. A kind of, "they're not really like me". It seems you are making a value statement, maybe asserting a sort of superiority (moral, physical?), over something that is (in many people's view) inconsequential. I wonder why that is?

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hawkinspeter replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
5 likes
wtjs wrote:

So? why do you care what other folk are riding?

So? why do you care what other folk are writing? This delusional thinking is getting out of hand. Powered cycling is not cycling. It's easier and faster- that's why people indulge in it. No-one, as far as I know, is trying to ban them, they take up less space than cars and motor bikes, they emit no pollution locally and expose cyclists to no more danger than other cyclists. I say ''hello' to them just as I do to cyclists and walkers. They are, however, not cyclists while they''re on e-bikes.

If it gets people out and about on two wheels (two wheels good, four wheel bad) then I'm happy to call them cyclists. They're getting some exercise and it can enable people who otherwise wouldn't feel comfortable putting in the time and effort to increase their fitness. There's lots of cyclists who pootle along without wanting to push themselves and get all sweaty, yet they're still cyclists so why not extend the same idea to assisted cycling? It's the two wheels that are important, not the amount of exertion.

(Apologies to tricyclists, hand-cyclists, unicyclists and others that may have differing number of wheels)

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Captain Badger replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
2 likes

As the BBC would say "Other numbers of wheels are available...."

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Hirsute replied to wtjs | 3 years ago
2 likes
wtjs wrote:

So? why do you care what other folk are riding?

So? why do you care what other folk are writing?

I dunno, maybe because it is a loose discussion forum ?

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eburtthebike replied to Captain Badger | 3 years ago
6 likes
Captain Badger wrote:

So? why do you care what other folk are riding?

Exactly; they're riding and not driving.  We should all be very grateful.

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