Road Safety News

E-bikes: ‘two-wheeled commuting revolution storming across the UK’

Thursday 6th July 2017

Image: Kārlis Dambrāns, via Flickr

A recent feature in the Guardian highlighted the benefits and pitfalls of electric bicycles, questioning whether they are ‘the way forward’ for commuters.

Published on 1 July, the Guardian feature follows the experiences of electric bicycle ‘convert’ Philip Dalton, who says ditching the car in favour of his electric bike (or e-bikes as they are known) has transformed his daily commute.

Philip Dalton said: “The e-bike is brilliant as it helps me keep a good speed climbing up the hills, meaning that when I get to work I’m not exhausted. It’s almost as fast as taking the car, plus it’s a great way to start the day. I love it.”

An e-bike is a regular bike with a battery and electric motor added. The motor kicks in automatically as soon as the rider starts pedalling, although some models let the rider choose when the motor starts and adjust how much help is provided.

However, the motor cannot do all the hard work, as e-bikes are neither mini scooters nor mopeds. For e-bikes to be road legal in the UK the motor can only kick in once the rider starts pedalling and will cut out once a speed of 15mph is reached.

The walking and cycling charity Sustrans says e-bikes have the potential to transform cycling for many people, including commuters.

Jason Torrance, policy director, told the Guardian: “With leadership and urgent action from government, e-bikes could also tackle the public health emergency of poor air quality by making cycling a realistic travel choice for everyone.”

However, a major difference between e-bikes and regular bikes is the cost – most e-bikes are priced at upwards of £1,000.

The Guardian feature says a smart way to ease the financial pain is to sign up to a cycle-to-work scheme. The government-backed initiative can knock up to 40% off the cost of a new bike through salary sacrifice. However, the maximum spend is £1,000 which rules out almost all e-bikes.

To resolve this issue, the Green Commute Initiative (GCI) has recently been launched, specifically targeting the e-bike market with a mission to get more commuters out of their cars – thereby cutting air pollution and traffic congestion.

The Guardian feature concludes: “With the battery costing less than 10p to recharge, plus an annual service charge of about £50, the financial benefits of e-bikes are compelling.”

Want to know more about cycling and road safety?
Online library of research and reports etc - visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports - visit the Road Safety Observatory


Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

The headline is just that - a headline to attract attention. What is more worrying is the challenge to the professionalism of RSGB members by those who seem to nit-pick. Yes I too have had my moments. The newspage is there to inform the membership of articles they may have missed and therefore allows us an opportunity to keep abreast of what is being discussed in the media. We should be smart enough to filter the information and from where it comes and be able to assess the value it has for us. This was in the Guardian, and they managed to correctly spell bike so points to them but our editors do a great job in letting us know what is out there so that if asked by a member of the public, councilor or colleague we can respond from a position of some knowledge not ignorance. There will always be differences of opinion about news and fake news. Nick lays out the canapes of articles and we select what we wish to digest.
Peter Wilson City of Westminster

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

Rod, Can I please put a word in for "fathers/male carers" who walk/walked with their children to school please?
Nick, Lancashire

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

For a group of apparent professionals, some of you have put together a pretty disappointing comments thread here, I have to say. And the icing on the cake is "Oh look, the '20s Plenty campaigning bandwagon ' "
Tim Lennon, Richmond Upon Thames

Agree (5) | Disagree (9)

There’s something we can agree on Rod, we both thought the title of the RSGB article was inappropriate. I thought it was a bit sensationalist and so worthy of the minor comment I made to that effect.

However it seems to me that your first comment was more O.T.T. that the E-bike headline. Actually, O.T.T. and out of order, so that may have galvanised Nick to reply. I was going to say something about your second comment but Bob beat me to it, so I’ll pass for the moment. Well done that man.

Judging from the unprecedented numbers of ‘likes’ you have received, we appear to have the 20s Plenty campaigning bandwagon rolling into action. Quite interesting to see.

Coming back to our communities and streets, most Local Authority highways and transport practitioners ARE interested in ALL road users and modes of travel and that is not just reserved for campaigners like yourselves. However the majority of these LA professionals have a different view to yours about where the balance of initiatives and priorities is to be struck. Nationwide default 20s won’t be happening until the elephant of widespread non-compliance has been sorted. I still don’t see you or any other campaigners having any credible answers on that one yet.
Pat, Wales

Agree (9) | Disagree (5)

I don't think that Rod has in fact informed us of his biases at all. I have many beliefs also like no deaths on the road, no murders, no wars, no rapes, no child abuse etc. Shall I go on? That's my altruistic view. But we all have to live in the real world. He has just informed us in extremely altruistic and perhaps emotive terms of his beliefs and it would now appear that he sees his scheme to be a panacea for all the world's ills and all the carnage that occurs on our roads. Was it ever meant to be the saviour of our planet? I don't think so.

There is in fact little actual evidence that this scheme is providing what Mr King initially wanted or expected it to. Now that the schemes have been running for many years, some well over a decade, do you not think that we should be in full cognisance of the truth? We are no further forward as we see that interim reports are not persuasive and that further examinations have to take place and that will take another 3 to 4 years. Two areas have been selected and one wonders whether those mere two will be representative of the hundreds that have already adopted this expensive scheme. In the meantime this government in order to satisfy its support of the EEC efforts that means fewer or zero deaths by 2020 is still pursuing this scheme at a great financial cost to this country and with apparently little or nothing to show for it. It now appears that as speeds are not going down all over the place that further measures may have to be employed to force the motorist to show some respect for a law that it despises and holds in disrepute. Quite honestly it has been ill conceived and badly executed.

Now that there is increased criticism of the scheme Mr King sees it as an afront to himself and attempts to defend his position by arguing about mere words and places specific importance to a single newspaper report. How many newspapers get the facts right anyway? One wrong word and Mr King is up in arms.

It seems that we have the makings of an expensive boondoggle.

Let's allow this to end here and as is suggested in the past, allow those participants to speak with each other and sort matters out but not on this site.
Bob Craven Lancs

Agree (11) | Disagree (7)

I don't think there's anything wrong in being biased where the basis for it is being well-informed and then being able to take a balanced and measured view (to use Nick's words).

Believing what needs to be done to reduce collisions and to what degree, may vary amongst those tasked with achieving that and this forum should be a coming together of such informed people with a common aim. If I have an issue with the RSGB forum, it's not knowing the various contributors' background and expertise and where they are coming from and therefore how much credibility they have. Nothing wrong with informed, disgruntled road safety /collision reduction practitioners having a difference of opinion, but having disgruntled motorists chipping in with internet sourced 'facts' and gossip, leading inevitably to uninformed bias, can water down the usefulness of a forum like this.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

As a sub-editor, I would say you have enough space in an online heading to use quotes and source, ie "Two wheeled revolution storming UK', says Guardian feature.

I think bias is always subjective. Rod King has stated his bias very clearly. What are your biases, Nick?
Will Bramhill, Colchester UK

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)


I would have thought you would be concerned by the actual criticism rather than its source. It wasn't that I didn't "like the story" (goodness, I have got used to those) but that fact that it was misleading.

Regarding my bias. I unashamedly wear it as a badge.

Yes, I am biased in my support for the vulnerable who have every right to use those spaces between buildings that we call streets without fear, intimidation and law-breaking.

I am biased in my support for mothers walking to school with their children, the young without the visual acuity of us adults, the elderly with limited mobility, the disabled, the hard of hearing and the partially sighted.

I am biased in my support for those who choose to be the engine for their own transport and venture out onto roads walking or cycling without a steel protective shell.

I am biased in my support for nearly 400 community campaigns around the country and abroad where communities are trying to win back their streets to be used more fairly and with less pollution.

But my bias against those who drive (as I do myself) only goes as far as those who choose to ignore the laws which society and communities set. The ones who pick and choose which limits and laws to obey based on their flawed interpretation of their responsibilities to communities, their own timetable and that view that as long as they don't hit anybody then they do no harm.

If you think that this bias means that my criticism is not worthy of your concern, then so be it!
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (31) | Disagree (14)

I sense an interesting debate unfolding! Perhaps it should be a separate item.

For my part, I'd always seen RSGB as for professionals, by professionals, in which case one might presume the news items to have been vetted in some way and therefore could be relied upon by the readership to have credibility by having been endorsed by RSGB. I suspect that isn't the case and news items are presented with a 'take them as you wish' message..does lead to some interesting debates though.

Did think your response to Rod a bit unfair and unreasonable though Nick if I may say so. At least Rod is actually trying to do something to improve things rather than simply complaining about what should and shouldn't be done by others.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (25) | Disagree (11)

Thanks for your observations Rod.

Had this comment come from someone known for their measured, balanced, unbiased views and opinions, I would be very concerned.

Truth is Rod, you are miffed with me because we ran a story about 20mph that you didn't like (despite the fact we ran your response to the article).

And now you are looking for an opportunity to have a pop at me!

I will leave our readers to make up their own minds about the merits of the point you make.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (26) | Disagree (29)

I am sorry Nick, but this keeps happening time and time again. RSGB sees a news article and repeats the headline without any checking of its credibility. And then simply abrogates any responsibility for a misleading headline by claiming it has "put it in quotes".

This is your RSGB news page and people do not expect it to be misleading.

Recently we had your headline from an IAM press release which said "More than 80% of cars exceeding 20mph limits". You then went on to say that "New statistics show that during 2016, 81% of cars exceeded the speed limit on roads with a 20mph limit, with 15% exceeding the limit by more than 10mph". This statement about 20mph limits was general and would lead anyone to believe that this was the case for all 20mph roads. Yet patently this was misleading because it only applied to 9 specific non-residential roads. Furthermore neither of these statement was in quotes.

RSGB does have a responsibility for its newspage and the messages it communicates. I am afraid that if RSGB cannot be bothered to assess the accuracy of its news articles then it ceases to be a credible source of news. If that the way you want it fine, its your credibility that is at risk!
Rod King, Warrington, Cheshire, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (26) | Disagree (17)

A man that I know of got himself disqualified from driving due to being drunk. He bought an E bike new for £500 and never looked back. He would do 15 mph for about 40 miles on one charge and although he started it by pedalling it took over until he had to brake and pedal again.

No licence or insurance needed or tax. And you have the added advantage being a bike that you can at all times ride on the pavements with it. You don't need roads.
m.worthington Manchester

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

Take your point but the headline is in speech marks because it is a direct lift from the Guardian article.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (4) | Disagree (5)

I have nothing against e-bikes (except the price) but the title of the RSGB article is a bit O.T.T. I think I saw an e-bike on the road once in Wales but I could have been mistaken. "storming the UK"? I think not (at least not here, not yet).
Pat, Wales

Agree (12) | Disagree (4)