Motives, perceptions and experiences of electric bicycle owners and implications for health, wellbeing and mobility

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The sale of electrically assisted bicycles (‘e-bikes’) is growing at a rapid rate across Europe. Whereas market data is available describing sales trends, there is limited understanding of the experience of early adopters of e-bike technology. This paper investigates the motives for e-bike purchase, rider experience and perceived impact on mobility, health and wellbeing through in-depth interviews with e-bike owners in the Netherlands and the UK. Findings revealed that the motive for purchasing e-bikes was often to allow maintenance of cycling against a backdrop of changing individual or household circumstances. E-bikes also provided new opportunities for people who would not otherwise consider conventional cycling. Perceptions of travel behaviour change revealed that e-biking was replacing conventional cycling but was also replacing journeys that would have been made by car. There was also a perception that e-biking has increased, or at least allowed participants to maintain, some form of physical activity and had benefitted personal wellbeing. Technological, social and environmental barriers to e-biking were identified. These included weight of bicycle, battery life, purchase price, social stigma and limitations of cycle infrastructure provision.

Additional research is necessary to quantify actual levels of mode substitution and new journey generation among new e-bike owners and the impact of e-biking on promoting physical health and mental wellbeing.


This is the final version of the article. It first appeared from Elsevier via

electric bicycles, Netherlands, United Kingdom, travel behaviour, mobility, health & wellbeing
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Journal of Transport Geography
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Elsevier BV
This work was supported by The NetherlandsOrganization for Scientific Research (NWO) (434-11-010) as part of the Sustainable Accessibility of the Randstad programme. Lucas Harms undertook conceptualisation, fieldwork, analysis and writing whilst working at the Urban Cycling Institute of the University of Amsterdam. Eva Heinen undertook conceptualisation and fieldwork whilst at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen (NL), and subsequent analysis and writing under the auspices of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UK Public Health Research Centre of Excellence funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust. She is now based at the Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Leeds. We would like to thank NWO, colleagues at the University of Amsterdam, University of Groningen and Oxford Brookes University - particularly Nick Beale for proof reading. Also, to all of our participants who willingly gave up their time to provide a rich insight into their ebiking.