E-bike incentive programme reduced car travel by up to 40% per week

Research by the University of British Columbia has investigated the travel behaviour and greenhouse gas impacts of an e-bike incentive program in Saanich. 

The scheme saw income-related rebates given to 389 people, to offset the costs of a new e-bike from late 2021 to 2022.

The three income-tiered incentive levels were pitched at $350, $800, and $1,600 per e-bike purchase. Eligibility requirements for e-bikes were that they had a pre-rebate sale price of at least $1,800 were new (not used) and were for personal use only. 

Participants were recruited and surveyed in three waves (just after purchase, three months later and a year later) to study short- and long-term impacts of the incentivised bicycle purchases.

The University’s Research on Active Transportation (REACT) Lab found that even a year after purchase, most new e-bike users continued to regularly use their bikes as a substitute for car travel, with low-income households reducing their car trips and decreased carbon emissions the most. 

Among the lower-income group – i.e. those who received the $1,600 incentive – eight out of 10 would not have otherwise purchased an e-bike. In the $350 bracket, that figure was just two out of 10.

Results showed a significant surge in e-bike adoption, with 93% of users being new to e-bikes, and 60% new to cycling altogether.

One year after purchase, users continued to be satisfied with their e-bikes, integrating them into their routines for three to four days a week. They reduced weekly car travel by an average of 48 kilometres per week, a reduction of 30-40%.

Dr. Alex Bigazzi, principal investigator and associate professor of civil engineering at UBC who leads REACT (pictured above) said: ‘The incentive not only encouraged people to switch to e-bikes, it also resulted in remarkable changes in travel behaviour that persisted long after the purchase.

‘The larger incentives aimed at lower-income families did a great job getting new riders in the saddle and gave them a lower-cost alternative to using their cars.

In terms of its cost-effectiveness as a GHG reduction strategy, the scheme  was found to be competitive with other transportation subsidies in Canada at a cost of approximately $190 to $720 per tonne of GHG emissions.

Dr. Bigazzi said: ‘This suggests that e-bike incentives are more cost-effective in reducing emissions compared to electric car incentives, and that’s without including a range of cycling-related benefits such as increased physical activity, reduced local air pollutants and decreased travel costs.’

The full report can be downloaded here

Photo, home page: District of Saanich

Photo, this page: Elmira Berjisian/REACT Lab


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