Physical activity levels in the population are too low, resulting in a decline in overall health. By building physical exercise into people’s daily routines, using ‘active’ travel modes such as walking and cycling can improve their health at the same time as reducing the environmental impact of their journeys.  Research shows that using power-assisted means of active travel such as e-bikes also has health benefits, but to a lesser extent than unassisted active travel.

The studies carried out so far indicate that e-bikes can replace some car and van trips. They extend the range (in terms of both the distance and hilliness) within which people would normally consider it feasible for them to walk or cycle.  There are also signs that e-bikes can help older people to remain active by reducing the barriers posed by hills and distance when their ability to walk or cycle reduces and they might otherwise become inactive.

Thus e-bikes can increase the proportion of trips made by bike, as well as the distances travelled. The ‘catchment areas’ of facilities that can be reached by using active modes is extended. This includes public transport routes, stops and stations, and if suitable bike parking is available it increases options for using sustainable modes for longer journeys.

For transport practitioners to make the most of, and indeed encourage, the trend towards increasing popularity of active modes and particularly e-bikes, there will need to be changes. 

The design of cycling routes and infrastructure will need to take account of differences between e-bikes and conventional bicycles in how they are used, for example potentially higher speeds for many riders..  Facilities for parking and storing cycles at destinations will need to be designed for heavier and more valuable e-bikes. 

Some of the tools at the heart of transport decision making such as transport models and methods for scheme appraisal will need to be adapted to accurately reflect the parameters defining mode choice, health impacts, safety implications and economic costs and benefits of power-assisted active modes.

New data is needed to understand these design requirements, mode choice parameters, the different risks involved and to assess the health, fitness and other benefits.

With these changes in tools and available data, transport practitioners will be equipped to build on the recent trends and help to bring about a significant shift in the use of e-bikes and other active forms of travel.

For more information about the project and our work in active travel, download our report which evaluates innovative active travel solutions.

Register for our newsletter

Learn more about TRL with regular updates

Media membership

Our latest press releases and news

Get in touch

Have a question? Speak to one of our experts today.