e-Bikes for Commuters
E-mobility is a new concept in Poland, but awareness and curiosity are growing and people are willing to test new electric means of transport if they have the opportunity. Gdansk is one of the leading cycling cities in Poland, but general knowledge among its inhabitants about e-bikes is low. The City considers e-bikes to be particularly useful for medium and longer distances considering the city’s varying topography. Moreover, to date there are very few 4th generation public bike sharing systems (GPS-enabled, without central docking stations). Systems integrating e-bikes without central docking stations where batteries can be recharged pose a technical and logistic challenge.
This use case focuses on the adoption of e-bicycles in city bike sharing systems. The main goal is to assess how to boost the use of e-bikes for multimodal trips in a metropolis and how to integrate them into bike sharing systems. The knowledge generated in this use-case can be very relevant for other BSR cities planning to set up or update bike-sharing systems to include e-bikes.
The City of Gdansk carried out three main activities focusing on the adoption of e-bicycles in city bike sharing systems.
First of all, a concept
tual study has been carried out, assessing the possibilities of integrating electric bicycles into a 4th generation public bicycle system. In Gdansk and 13 surrounding municipalities (Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot metropolitan area) a metropolitan bicycle system has been implemented, consisting exclusively of electrically powered bicycles. It is currently the most modern and the largest cycling system of its kind in Europe. Its 4th generation bicycles are equipped with GPS receivers, supported by an application software and not requiring docking stations. As a result, electric bikes are now common on the streets, which increases awareness and curiosity among citizens and inspires their use. The daily operation of the public bicycle system is the responsibility of an independent contractor selected by tender. Its implementation costs include the construction of bicycle stations, the purchase of the bikes and the installation of an IT system.
Secondly, the City conducted a campaign to promote the use of e-bikes in everyday travel. As many people did not have the opportunity to try an electric bicycle before, the City of Gdansk made their rental by residents possible. A total of 3.543 citizens participated in the campaign. A survey among users showed how they perceived the electric bicycle.
Last but not least, Gdansk prepared and carried out an e-bike promotion campaign which encouraged people to commute by bike every day. Participants registered trips and distances covered with a smartphone app and took part in a competition, in which teams from different companies could also participate. In total, 4.128 participants made 231.655 bicycle journeys, which included 120.943 trips to work.
Results, lessons learnt and recommendations
Research has shown that residents are more likely to switch from car/public transport to bicycle if the bicycle is electric. The biggest advantage indicated was the ease of climbing the hills, followed by the possibility of driving without sweating while wearing formal dress and the ability to cover longer distances. The disadvantages reported include high purchase costs and heavy weight.
A number of lessons learnt could be drawn from the analysis of the demonstration action:
A public bicycle system based solely on electric bikes generates higher maintenance cost for the system operator (malfunctions, charging the battery) and potentially entails limited bike availability. The introduction of both electric and traditional bikes should be considered to increase the functionality of the system and make it profitable for the operator.
Public authorities should support the process of increasing the share of e-bikes in the total number of journeys as a way to solve many of their cities' transport problems. Strong public-private partnership arrangements should be built to enable the launch and operation of the public bicycle rental system.
There is a need for appropriate legislation on electric bikes - cities should translate this into rules (e.g. authorisation of e-bikes of different classes, speed limits) that will make it easy and safe to use e-bikes in urban spaces.
A safe bicycle infrastructure (bicycle roads, bicycle repair stations, bicycle parking lots) must be established and solutions to improve the safety and comfort of active forms of mobility should be implemented.
When promoting electric mobility, the main focus should be on stakeholders such as companies and their employees. They are the main generator of traffic in the city, so they should be encouraged to use active forms of travel. The main activities that can be undertaken for this purpose include promotion campaigns (preferably competitions), meetings or presentations.
Companies should provide more incentives for employees participating in e.g. Bike2Work campaigns. This increases public awareness and people are more motivated to ride a bike.
Key recommendations are summarized in a theme-specific Action Checklist for Municipalities and Companies.