Over 100 million car and taxi trips made each year in the UK’s major city regions could instead be on e-bikes according to a new report by consultants Steer for the Urban Transport Group (UTG), which represents the UK’s seven largest municipal transport authorities outside of London.

The report – Fully charged: Powering up the potential of e-bikes in the city regions – looks at how the increasing use of e-bikes can help accelerate the mode shift to journeys that would otherwise be made by cars and taxis.

Sales of e-bikes have rocketed across Europe in the past 18 months but in the UK are low compared to Europe. In 2019 e-bikes accounted for just 3% of new bikes, compared to up to 30% in many European countries.

The report presents different scenarios on the potential for e-bikes and under the ‘Accelerated Growth Scenario’ suggests that e-bikes could contribute 7% of all trips in the seven core city regions.

Ben Still, Managing Director of West Yorkshire Combined Authority and lead Board member for active travel at the Urban Transport Group, said, “These scenarios paint a positive picture of what is possible for e-bikes. They tell us the portion of cycle trips that could be made by e-bikes if Government meets its target on shifting people to cycling, and the number of car and taxi trips which could be removed from our roads.

“E-bikes have unique appeal, enabling longer and more frequent cycle trips, and they can thrive in certain demographics, such as older people, or certain geographies, like hilly or congested towns and cities. E-bikes therefore need to be centre stage of Government’s active travel policy if we are to get more people cycling in our city regions.”

The report highlights the huge opportunity “to power up the potential of e-bikes in the city regions and beyond to meet and exceed government targets for mode shift, revolutionise first and last mile travel and support wider policy goals. This potential is already being capitalised upon across Europe, with e-bike sales rocketing, even in traditionally more car dependent countries. It is time to join the e-bike revolution and enable more people to cycle more often.”

The report proposes six areas in which local and transport authorities can play a role in increasing the uptake of e-bikes. These are:

  • Financial incentives – such as grant schemes and tax incentives
  • Changing public attitudes and increasing awareness – through bicycle libraries, loan schemes and better marketing and promotion
  • Infrastructure improvements – including better cycle routes and mobility hubs
  • Security, safety and convenience – with the provision of secure cycle storage and e-bike maintenance
  • Research and monitoring into pilot programmes that test approaches to incentivise the use of e-bikes
  • Shared e-bikes – with local and transport authorities securing funding targeted to introduce e-bikes into existing bike share schemes.