So far, the speedy modernization of the transport industry has not benefited the environment. Sure, our love of travelling in speed, comfort and style has made things super convenient for us, but what about the planet, and what about our health? The sad truth is that our love of comfort and convenience has increased pollution and the dangerous impact of climate change.
However, the rise of electric bikes (or e-bikes for short) is flipping the script. Carl Benz first secured approval for the e-bike in 1886, but e-bikes as we know them have been around for about 20 years. Now they’re more important than ever. The next steps towards a green and sustainable future will place e-bikes at the very center of change. Because they’re fitted with an electric motor rather than a fuel tank and conventional engine, they’re much better for the environment than most cars or motorbikes. Also, when they’re charged using green energy like solar power, they can be 100% carbon-neutral.
The impact so far
E-bikes are already making our communities more sustainable. According to e-bike manufacturer VanMoof, their U.S. e-bike riders prevented 118.3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from being released over the past year alone. Even better news, this is something that governments around the country have noticed. Los Angeles has built 1,190 miles of bike lanes, and Washington D.C. has built 48 miles of them. In New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge should soon be doubling the size of its bike lanes. It’s a country-wide phenomenon.
The rise in bike lanes is also great news for financial sustainability. Protected bike lanes cost $20,000 to $100,000 per mile (car lanes cost $1 million) and their upkeep is also far less expensive. This makes cycling also a smart transport investment. And, while e-bikes themselves can be an investment, the federal government is already putting in the hours for an E-bike Act, which would provide a 30% tax credit for purchases. By reducing the amount we spend on car lanes and upkeep, we can increase community spending elsewhere. Just imagine the benefits!
In comparison to conventional vehicles, E-bikes are not only a more sustainable solution, they’re a more convenient one, and their rise is leading to real governmental change in how our cities are built. If change is happening this quickly now, imagine where we might be in another 20 years.
The human benefit
Of course, a regular bicycle is a great option for sustainable travel. However, in communities where the terrain is hilly and the weather can get extremely hot, e-bikes are more attractive for people who are less used to cycling, people with disabilities, and those who are older or less agile. The built-in electric motor of the e-bike lets you travel farther, whatever shape you’re in.
By putting confidence into the hearts of would-be bike riders, e-bikes can reduce our dependency on cars, ultimately reducing the number of car journeys we make, and lead to a greener world. In fact, customers said that reducing car trips was a key reason for buying an e-bike, according to a 2018 National Institute of Transportation and Communities survey of e-bike owners – and most U.S. car rides (76.8% according to the National Household Travel Survey) are under ten miles long. That’s certainly a comfortable distance to cover on an e-bike.
And with all that exercise, it’s obvious that e-bikes could make us healthier too. They’ve been proven to show an increase in physical activity, because they encourage people to take longer trips by bike. According to VanMoof, this is clear in the U.S. On average, American citizens travel 1.92 miles farther on e-bikes than people in the rest of the world and spend an average of 11.6 minutes longer on them.
Getting in this extra exercise, even adding ten minutes to the amount of physical activity you do in a week, can have massive health benefits! By riding an e-bike, you can improve your own health while securing a healthy future for our planet.
Riding into the sunset
So, whether it be providing encouragement to go out and exercise, supporting people with staying agile later in life, helping people with disabilities travel independently, or reducing the number of cars on the road, e-bikes could actively contribute to the quality of life for all of us.
And, of course, sustainable communities lead to a more sustainable planet. If we continue to reduce emissions by over 100 tons a year – as U.S. riders have proven is possible – we could actively tackle the climate crisis and leave the planet a far better and healthier place for future generations.
Emily Wilson works in editorial and is always looking for ways to support the environment in our cities.