E-Bike Sales are Booming in the U.K. and U.S.

As more people buy e-bikes for regular commuting and transportation, cycling advocates are calling for cities to beef up investment in safe infrastructure.

2 minute read

July 15, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

In the United Kingdom, "e-bike sales outstripped electric car sales in 2020," with one e-bike selling every three minutes. Yet, writes Lloyd Alter, "guess which mode of transport gets all the attention and the infrastructure investment, with the government spending another 20 million pounds ($27.75 million) on charging points that they often stick in the middle of sidewalks?"

Mark Sutton, editor of Cycling Industry News, cites a "lack of safe infrastructure" as "the biggest obstacle to growing cycling levels," calling for U.K. cities to step up investment in infrastructure and safety for cyclists. "For a true end-to-end journey to become viable by bike things like cycle parking must be factored in, employers will have to begin to cater and even incentivise non-car travel (property with showers and cycle-friendly access are now worth more) and residential areas will have to be linked to arteries. People won’t take that first step if the view outside their door is terrifying."

The bike boom is also gaining support from an unlikely ally: real estate developers. Alter describes Sutton's theory: "Developers want to build more, but they know that there isn't room for a lot more cars, which 'spill out of our own individual spaces and on to public land, where in theory they have no real right to be.'"

In the U.S., e-bike sales also jumped by 145% over 2019, while electric car sales dropped slightly, but the federal government's infrastructure plan only allocates $20 billion for road safety programs that benefit cyclists and pedestrians, compared with $174 billion for vehicle electrification. Critics worry that "funneling billions into vehicle electrification will continue to prop up our car-centric transportation system and enrich car companies instead of challenging car dominance with investments that reduce the need for cars." As Alter writes, "we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that there is a serious e-bike boom happening right now, or that we can't keep expanding our cities horizontally and vertically without reducing the proportion of people who drive cars, electric or gas—there simply isn't enough room."

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