Wednesday, November 15, 2023
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
E-bikes: A Sustainable Alternative to Local Car Travel
Session ID
A7 - Lightning: Transportation

E-bikes offer an affordable alternative to local car travel, with clear potential to substantially reduce fossil fuel emissions. A 2020 RCT in Sweden found that e-bikes decreased frequent drivers’ daily car mileage by 37%. Considering such findings, a pilot program to assess the impact of e-bikes on four participants in Northern California was conducted. Participants, whose most common pre-pilot mode of transportation was driving, received a RadCity e-bike, bike accessories, a GPS tracker, and a Fitbit for health metrics. Program data and participant interviews were analyzed to assess e-bike costs/benefits compared to other modes of transportation, the impact of weather, and health outcomes. Participants took a mean of 0.7 e-bike trips per day, with a mean trip distance of 8.3 miles in 66 minutes. Based on those usage levels, our analysis found that e-bikes were responsible for substantially fewer CO2 emissions per year (22 lb/rider) than gas-powered cars (1080 lb/user including passengers) or public transportation (311 lb/rider) and e-bikes only cost ~8% more than public transportation. Moreover, for e-bike trips shorter than 45 minutes, e-bike trip time was similar to driving a car and substantially less than public transport. Of the weather dimensions assessed, outside air temperature was the only variable associated with a significant decrease in e-bike distance and duration. This finding suggests that air quality, precipitation, and solar irradiance were not major deterrents to e-bike usage. In interviews, participants praised e-bikes for improving their physical strength and exercise frequency. While health outcomes did not reach significance across 5 months of Fitbit data, e-bikes clearly have potential to improve cardiovascular health. These findings suggest the multifaceted benefits of e-bikes far outweigh the costs. Especially in the face of growing carbon emissions and climate change, e-bikes powered by renewable energy offer a sustainable, equitable path for local transportation.

Supporting Document 1