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Popularity of Electric Bikes on the Rise

Updated on May 22, 2017
Amsterdam has the 2nd highest number of cyclists of any European city.
Amsterdam has the 2nd highest number of cyclists of any European city.

Electric bike sales are seeing a sharp rise across Europe according to the latest reports from the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), which predicts a 55% increase over a nine year period. Their increase in popularity should be no surprise, with e-bikes getting lighter, more powerful, more economical and, most importantly for consumers, cheaper.

With many European cities putting a fresh focus on cycling to reduce congestion and pollution levels, their citizens are looking to take advantage of the improved cycling routes with alternatives to traditional bicycles. Additionally, as cities expand outwards, commuting times have become longer and more costly. With daily commuters keen to avoid the rising cost of public transport and overcrowding, non-powered bikes make cycling to work unrealistic.

However, with new and improved electric bikes, using a bicycle for daily commenting, city roaming, and even country visits, is now an attractive possibility for many.

Three good examples of countries that are seeing an increase in e-bike usage are the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The Dutch have always been one of the leading bike friendly countries in Europe, with Amsterdam having the second highest number of citizens who regularly cycle. With that many people dependent on their bike, many expected electric bicycle adoption rate to be slow in the Netherlands. However, worries that the Dutch would be unwilling to cast aside their tried and tested peddle power bikes, ebike sales saw a huge 24% increase from 2014 to 2015, with a total of 276,000 units sold in a twelve month period.

Most interestingly was sales seen in Spain and the UK. Both the British and Spanish are known to shy away from travelling by bike, with the two countries being 13th and 14th respectively in electric bike unit sales. Despite these relatively low adoption rates, Spain saw e-bike sales increase by 40% between 2014 and 2015, mainly thanks to the government’s new investments in cycling routes.

Similarly in the UK, while yearly unit sale increases are slow, the government are keen to get more people on two wheels. At the start of 2017, they announced a £64 million fund aimed to encourage more people to cycle.

In addition, new technologies are emerging that helps cities plan cycle routes more easily. Open source web tool, Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT), allows urban planners to visualize and estimate cycling demand. With its e-bike feature, it can take into account that commuters would be willing to travel further by bike and be able to tackle steeper slopes – greatly expanding the number cycling routes which could be added to current and future infrastructure.

Currently the tool is only available for major English cities, including London, Liverpool and Manchester, but the developers hope to roll it out to all larger cities across Europe in the future.

With more and more people looking for alternatives to public transport, as well as wanting to avoid petrol and diesel vehicles, and with governments continued investment in biking infrastructure, the demand for electric bikes is only going to continue to rise.

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