The National Park Service (NPS) has been at the forefront of the e-bike debate in the United States by permitting these modern marvels of micro-mobility on trails in national parks where regular, "analog" bike use is allowed.
The park service has produced a detailed literature overview of nearly 60 e-bike studies. The literature review revealed the following conclusions related to equality and e-biking.
Equity and E-bikes
"E-bikes present an opportunity to expand access for underserved groups and the rise of shared e-bikes may lower barriers for access for lower income populations."
- "The gender discrepancy between e-bike users is proportionally lower than that of traditional bicycle users in the United States; however, women remain underrepresented among e-bike users.
- The high upfront cost of e-bikes is a barrier to e-bike ownership and ridership.
- Some shared e-bike operators provide alternative means of access for low-income or unbanked individuals or those without a smartphone, such as “text-to-unlock” features."
"There is a growing interest in understanding how the various benefits and burdens from e-bike ridership are distributed across the population. E-bikes present an opportunity to expand access for underserved groups and the rise of shared e-bikes may lower barriers for access for lower income populations. However, their high upfront cost and limited availability in low-income neighborhoods often serve as barriers reducing access to e-bikes for traditionally underserved populations. Existing research in this area is limited but tends to focus on discrepancies in gender and lack of affordability and access.The growth of shared e-bikes has presented opportunities and barriers for e-bike access to underserved populations, as they can experiment with e-bikes without committing to the high upfront cost, but often require users to unlock an e-bike with a smartphone or credit card and e- bike locations are often skewed towards business districts and tourist hotspots."
Equality Key Findings
"The high upfront cost and additional recurring costs (i.e., charging, battery replacement) of e-bikes are a significant barrier to greater e-bike ownership and ridership among lower income households.
E-bikes may help to reduce barriers to ridership for many groups including traditionally underserved populations. Older adults, women, and people who may not consider themselves physically able to ride a bicycle may look to e-bikes for commuting or personal trips. There is a lack of research examining e-bike ridership among racial groups; however, studies noted that users have at times felt apologetic or self-conscious due to being viewed as “cheating” for riding an e- bike. These sentiments are not unique to certain racial groups, but the threat of targeted harassment combined with barriers of access and affordability may deter e-bike ridership among traditionally underserved groups."
"The growth of shared e-bikes has, in some ways, helped to increase access to e-bikes for traditionally underserved populations by allowing users to experiment with these modes without committing to their high upfront costs, but requires users to unlock e-bikes with a smartphone or credit card, which presents a barrier to low-income and unbanked individuals.
A review of dockless e-bikes and e-scooters in Washington, DC, found that Black residents adopted dockless services at a significantly higher rate than docked services when compared to white residents. Additionally, the geographical distribution of shared e-bikes may be skewed toward central business districts and tourist hotspots, which limits access for traditionally underserved groups. Many cities have compelled bike share operators to station devices in underserved areas and offer alternative means of access for unbanked individuals or those without a smartphone."
Equity Areas for Further Research
"Future research could investigate ridership by racial groups to better determine why ridership is often lower among certain underserved groups. Existing research suggests that there may be stigmas or fears of harassment that decrease ridership among certain groups; future studies may help to identify strategies to guide policy and decision making in a manner that will support greater e-bike ridership among traditionally underserved groups. Lastly, further research could analyze the effectiveness of policies that encourage greater e-bike ridership among traditionally underserved groups."
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"This theme of the literature review presents studies that explore the distribution of e-bike ridership across the population, barriers to adoption, and the equity opportunities and barriers with shared e-bikes."
Alamelu, R., Anushan, C. S., & Selvabaskar, S. G. (2015). Preference of E-Bike by Women in India – A Niche Market for Auto Manufacturers. Business: Theory & Practice, 16(1), 25- 30. https://doi.org/10.3846/btp.2015.431
"This paper determines the factors that influence the decision to purchase an e-bike, identifies the awareness level of survey respondents towards e-bikes, and analyzes the level of satisfaction towards the use of e-bikes on roads in Madurai City in order to examine the viability of e-bikes to fill a transportation gap for women in India. The findings from the study indicate that Indian women are generally supportive of e-bikes but would like to see models with additional carrying capacity, recharging stations around the city, and government subsidies to make e-bikes more affordable."
Dill, J., Rose, G. (2012). E-Bikes and Transportation Policy: Insights from Early Adopters.
TRB, 2314(1), 1-6. https://doi.org/10.3141%2F2314-01
This report presents findings from interviews with e-bike users in Portland, OR revealing potential demographic markets for e-bikes that could increase usership: women, older adults, and people with physical limitations. Interviewees noted the ability to travel longer distances, ease with hills, and arrive at destinations less sweaty or tired than a traditional bicycle.
The report also revealed that the high upfront cost and additional recurring costs of an e-bike are significant barrier to greater e-bike ownership and ridership. Although potential conflict between e-bike and traditional bicycle owners is not a unique barrier for underserved populations, the threat of targeted harassment from traditional bicyclists combined with barriers of access and affordability may deter e-bike ridership among these groups.
Clelow, R. (2018). DC is growing is dockless bike and scooter program: We partnered with them to evaluate how it’s expanding access in underserved communities. Populus. https://medium.com/populus-ai/measuring-equity-dockless-27c40af259f8
"The article provides a review of dockless e-bikes and e-scooters in Washington, DC. The findings demonstrated that Black residents adopted dockless services at a significantly higher ratio to docked services when compared to white residents.
These results demonstrate that dockless e- bikes and e-scooters may help to improve mobility for underserved populations; however, there is a need to ensure that unbanked individuals and those without a smartphone have access."
Stowell, H. (2020). Making Micromobility Equitable for All. Institute of Transportation Engineers. https://www.nxtbook.com/ygsreprints/ITE/ITE_February2020/index.php?startid=46#/p/46
"This article summarizes different methods that micromobility operators and different jurisdictions use to promote equity. The article highlights the experiences of Washington, DC and Santa Monica, CA that have compelled operators to locate devices in underserved areas and offer alternative means of access for unbanked individuals and those without a smartphone."
Yanocha, D., Allan, M. (2019). The Electric Assist: Leveraging E-bikes and E-Scooters for more Livable Cities. Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. https://www.itdp.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/ITDP_The-Electric-Assist_-Leveraging-E- bikes-and-E-scooters-for-More-Livable-Cities.pdf
"This paper compared the affordability and distribution of e-bike adoption in Brazil and Mexico (pre-emerging markets), the US (emerging market), China (long-term developed market), and the Netherlands (short-term developed market), and found extreme disparity in e-bike cost as percent of annual income among those markets with e-bike costs accounting for a higher percentage in less developed markets; however, the e-bike cost in each market was significantly lower than the cost of a car as a percent of annual income.
Additionally, the paper noted that in theory, shared dockless e-bike and e-scooter systems are more widely available in areas of high economic hardship compared to station-based systems which would result in a more equitable distribution of e-bikes and e-scooters. In practice, however, differing use patterns of dockless e-bikes and e- scooters by socioeconomic group result in inequitable spatial access of e-bikes and e-scooters.
As a result, many cities are requiring e-bike providers to deploy a certain percentage of e-bikes and e-scooters in designated underserved areas to address these equity issues. The gender discrepancy between e-bike users is proportionally lower than that of traditional bicycle users in the United States; however women remain underrepresented among e-bike users."
Uteng, T. P., Uteng, A., & Kittilsen, O. J. (2019). Land use development potential and E-bike analysis. Norwegian Centre for Transport Research Institute of Transport Economics. https://www.toi.no/getfile.php?mmfileid=50260
"This white paper compared job accessibility by traditional bicycle and e-bike, and examined the relationship with land use plans of the four biggest cities in Norway. E-bikes were found to extend the accessibility for jobs, typically located in a city center, to a larger share of a surrounding area. Moreover, land use is closely tied to transportation demand and land use plans should incorporate the effects of e-bike usage.
This paper could also help inform future land use planning considering multimodal transport that includes e-bikes. This paper is highly specific to Norway, so results may not hold true for other locations with different travel mode shares, social factors, and geographies. In the same way that e-bikes (relative to traditional bicycles) can improve access to jobs, they may be able to improve peoples’ ability to access destinations, including sites in the National Park System."
This is an interactive version of the NPS study. We have copied the text of the study verbatim on this page under Section 105 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The text and conclusions of the study are those of the NPS.
Krista Sherwood (Conservation & Outdoor Recreation Division) and Wayne Emington (Park Facility Management Division) are the points of contact for this outstanding literature review. The NPS is not affiliated or associated with E-bike Lovers.
Download the NPS study here.