The founder of an e-bike sharing service believes any proposed electric vehicle strategy of the federal government must include e-bikes and micromobility options, given the growth taking place in the sector and the benefit it provides.
In an AusCycling interview, the founder of Newcastle-based e-bike sharing service BYKKO Monica Zarafu said macro and micro measures indicate the industry is growing at a considerable rate.
“From production to retail and shared mobility, every single sector is reporting huge growth over the past few years,” Zarafu said.
“In terms of our users in Newcastle, we’ve seen an increase in usage over the past four years, year-on-year. It’s still a new movement, but I’m quite sure it’s not just the novelty that has attracted people. It’s the power assistance when riding and the fact that you can easily travel longer distances without many of the barriers of cycling.”
However, the 2021 Women in Digital Innovator of the Year said improved infrastructure, transport subsidies, and purchasing incentives are needed to get more people on e-bikes and micromobility options.
“Obviously, we need safer and larger cycling infrastructure. Secondly, the price for retail is quite high. It’s still a price point where most people can’t afford it, or it compares unfavourably. So, any incentives like they have in Europe and the United States where they have passed bills to create a financial incentive is good. Shared mobility could also be classified as public transport infrastructure, planned as an essential link in a multi-modal transport system and funded accordingly.”
The observations align with a joint response from peak cycling bodies from across Australia to the federal government’s National Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy consultation paper.
The strategy aims to help meet emission reduction targets and ensure Australians have access to the best transport technologies, and includes measures to increase the transition to EVs across all road transport segments.
Led by We Ride Australia, AusCycling worked with Bicycle Network, Bicycle NSW, Bicycle QLD, Bicycle SA, Pedal Power ACT, and WestCycle on the joint submission, that argues the strategy needs to recognise the importance of light electric vehicles (LEVs) such as e-bikes and other micromobility devices in meeting these objectives.
The submission supports the government’s goal of making EVs more affordable, noting that LEVs help address cost-of-living concerns, are viable for short transport trips, and provide health, environmental, and community benefits.
The submission also outlines how an electric transport system that includes LEVs would help meet Australia’s emissions reduction target of net zero emissions by 2050.
Measures to incentivise greater use of LEVs, such as infrastructure initiatives, purchase and tax enticements, and targeted communication campaigns, are also included in the submission, while it also argues that encouraging e-bike use would help address congestion issues that EVs do not solve, a point corroborated by Zarafu.
“We all have conversations about electric vehicles and EV charging stations, but they won’t solve the problems we have currently with our cities with traffic, with congestion and accidents, with obesity, with mental health, and parking space. It will be crazy. I can’t even imagine where are we going to park and charge so many electric cars?” Zarafu said.
Zarafu pointed out that the profile of people riding e-bikes and attitudes towards them are also increasingly mainstream, heightening the need for their inclusion in a nation-wide EV strategy.
“I always try to convince people that are like me and not cyclists to try e-cycling. I’m not fit. I’m not very healthy. I’m not young,” Zarafu said
“But I say, ‘Look, if it’s good for me, then it definitely will be good for others.’”
“And we’ve seen the data confirm all our assumptions. We have very good gender distribution, very good age distribution, and a very wide market.”
Zarafu revealed their latest data indicated about 48% of their e-cyclists are women, and the average trip distance is about 4.5km per leg, adding up to “9-10kms per day.” However, she also felt more could be done to encourage e-bike and micromobility take up.
“Employers and residential developers and councils can encourage uptake, because if you see a fleet of work bikes that everyone is using, or more people are coming to work on an electric bike, then you will probably consider that option yourself,” Zarafu said.
“What also frustrates me is negative news coverage. If you scan the news about cycling, probably 99% are bad news stories. Accidents definitely happen, and I’m not saying we should ignore them, but we should also cover the positives: The health benefits from cycling and electric bikes. The fact you can travel 10kms in 20-30 minutes. The fact that you will feel better. The streets will be safer, our kids will be safer. There are so many benefits, and I don’t see anything in the press.”
The Australian bicycle organisations who contributed to the submission represent the 10.19 million Australians or 40 per cent of the population who ride a bicycle in an average year.