September 24, 2019
E-Bikes & E-Scooters: Drivers of Climate Action
E-Bikes and E-Scooters present a significant opportunity to cut carbon emissions by filling in the first and last mile gap and replacing cars for certain urban trips
Electric bikes and electric scooters, often referred to as micromobility, present cities with opportunities to advance sustainable transport solutions by replacing passenger vehicles. E-bikes and e-scooters offer people more ways to connect to their destinations without having to rely on single-occupancy vehicles, thus reducing high emissions trips. Streets can transform into safe spaces for more than just cars when these modes are scaled.
One of the major opportunities presented by electric micromobility vehicles is the ability to fill the first and last mile gap.
First and last mile
One significant challenge in mode shift – getting people out of cars and onto other forms of transit – particularly public transportation is the first and last mile problem. This problem occurs when people do not have low cost and efficient means for reaching mass transit, thus making them unlikely to shift modes away from motor vehicles. One of the major opportunities presented by electric micromobility vehicles is the ability to fill the first and last mile gap. For instance, e-scooters can be ridden by almost anyone, regardless of fitness or ability, for a short distance. E-bicycles can cover longer distances, making them more practical for first and last mile. With many shared systems, people have the opportunity to travel with e-scooters or e-bikes to and from transit hubs. Indeed, these modes have proven so effective, that they have been able to get people out of cars altogether.
Replace car trips
Most urban trips are less than 5 kilometers; a short enough distance that it can be traveled by e-bikes and e-scooters in roughly the same amount of time as personal vehicles. Thanks to the boost in speed from electricity, these devices can cover more ground faster than traditional, non-electric bikes and scooters. Replacing cars presents significant climate benefits: if the mode share for e-bikes rises to 11%, we could see a 7% decrease in CO2 emissions from the urban transport sector by 2030, which is equivalent to taking 134 million cars off the road. Up to 50% of short-distance car trips in US cities, and up to 70% in UK cities, could be replaced by electric micromobility modes. Furthermore, e-vehicles can function easily within existing cycling infrastructure making their adoption fast and relatively straightforward.
Cities stand to benefit from a shift to e-scooters and e-bikes – increasing ridership in public transport and getting more personal vehicles off of the road will ease congestion and increase public space. Indeed, the more non-cars on the street, the safer the streets will be for everyone, especially pedestrians. To reap these benefits and support electric modes of transport, cities should begin by making sure that low-speed e-bikes and e-scooters (under 25 kph) are legal and regulated like bicycles, not motor vehicles. Cities should also reinforce existing cycling infrastructure to accommodate more e-bicycles and e-scooters. If cycling infrastructure does not exist, this is the opportunity to build it. For dockless vehicles, cities should have clear regulations on the storage of the vehicles to ensure that sidewalks are not blocked. Luckily, many of these changes are feasible and do not require significant financial investment.
Widespread use of electric scooters and electric bicycles can only catalyze a shift away from private vehicle usage, bringing about significant climate benefits. Scaling these modes will only increase their benefits. It’s up to cities to take an active role in successfully supporting electric scooters and electric bicycles so that their adoption is safe and positive. During this climate week, it is important to remember that with innovation and imagination, opportunities to fortify the battle against climate change.