With gyms shut and less cars on the road, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the right conditions for cycling, leading to unprecedented demand for standard bicycles and electric bikes (e-bikes) alike. Now, e-bikes are being touted as the best way to safely get people back to work.
A study by the Oxford-based Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) found that e-bikes could “slash carbon dioxide emissions from transport, and in the context of the coronavirus crisis, could offer workers a safe and sustainable route back to the office and factory”.
E-bikes, rather than regular bikes, would be more effective as a widespread solution, as e-bikes make it easier for people to ride longer distances and over more difficult terrain.
“The strategic potential of e-bikes as a mass-transport option has been overlooked by policymakers so far,” said Dr Ian Philips from the University of Leeds and CREDS. “The research began as a way to measure the potential carbon savings that e-bikes can offer, but as we emerge from the lockdown, e-bikes can be part of the solution to getting people safely mobile once again.”
Australian authorities have moved to support the boom in bikes and e-bikes. On Friday the NSW government and Sydney council announced they will rapidly install six new pop-up cycleways in key commuter areas to promote walking and cycling, though these are only temporary.
It is hoped that these new cycle paths will help keep people off public transport, as the NSW Ministry for Transport and Roads has said that Sydney’s public transport is already reaching capacity during peak periods as people still need to physically distance.
“As our roads have been quieter during the pandemic, many people have decided to take up cycling. We’re hoping these safe cycleway connections help people keep that up,” City of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore said. “When someone rides to work, they take a car off the road or free up space on public transport – this will be even more invaluable when people start returning to the City and seek to maintain physical distancing.”
The City of Melbourne Council has announced it will introduce something similar, however they have stated that these new paths may also be temporary.
The uptake of e-bikes has also been propelled by the surge in online orders and deliveries. Ezy Rider Bikes, which offers e-bike rental plans for food delivery riders, told ChannelNews that demand for their e-bikes had surged as people sought out work with UberEats, Deliveroo, and Doordash.
In addition, with people shopping online more, there is higher demand for deliveries. E-bikes could be a cheap way to quickly expand delivery capacity.
“When you buy online, you want to get it pretty quickly, and throwing it onto the back of a bike and zipping it around, you can get it done in an hour or so,” Professor Gary Mortimer, who teaches at the business school of Queensland University of Technology, told the ABC. “It costs money to have trucks driving around suburbs that are half empty and delivering into busy areas.”
In the Netherlands H&M is trialling bike deliveries for orders.
Despite the recent hike in consumer demand for e-bikes, Cygnett will not be making more of its e-bike Life Cycle ($1,199), potentially because the bike was too expensive for the market prior to COVID-19. Other e-bikes on the market cost around $1,000-2,000.