Freewheeling: What Six Locations, 61,000 Trips, and 242,000 Miles in Colorado Reveal about How E-Bikes Improve Mobility Options

Cemal Akcicek, Zack Aemmer, K. Shankari, Andrew Duvall

Research output: NRELPoster

Abstract

Personal micromobility modes such as bicycles, e-bikes and scooters offer low- or zero-emission transportation alternatives to single occupancy vehicles (SOVs). However, the lack of supporting data has led to a dearth of data-driven research on the usage of personally owned e-bikes, including variations due to weather, geography and demographics. In this paper, we present an overview of the longitudinal findings from the CanBikeCO program, focused on e-bike adoption and use rates across different demographics, trip characteristics, and geographies. The CanBikeCO program recorded travel survey data from late July 2021 to December 31, 2022, from low-income Colorado households who were provided with e-bikes for personal use by the Colorado Energy Office (CEO). This data was collected in six different communities across Colorado following the mini-pilot program that was conducted in Fall 2020. To collect data for the survey, the program used the NREL OpenPATH application, which combines passive data collection with semantic information such as trip mode and purpose labels. To the best of our knowledge, there is no prior travel survey data on personally owned e-bikes with this range and scope. This unique dataset yielded several insights. One is that commute trips among participants had nearly 17% higher shares of e-bikes than all trips combined. E-bikes were stated to most often replace cars (34% of e-bike trips) and personal micromobility (22%). Participants favored walking for trips less than 1 mile, e-bikes for trips 1-3 miles, and e-bikes, cars or shared rides for trips 3-20 miles. Seasonality accounted for a 10% decrease and subsequent recovery in e-bike mileage on a per user basis. E-bikes are also appealing across age groups, even among older individuals, and see decreased utilization similar to regular bikes or walking during winter months. We also find that e-bike use may be related to characteristics of land use and urban form, occupation and income as well as household car ownership. We conclude that, for this population, who are mainly part of low-income households, the emissions added by the use of e-bikes (in the case of replacement of non-motorized modes) are outweighed by the strong single occupancy vehicle (SOV) travel replacement. As a whole, our findings suggest a considerable potential for energy savings and emissions reductions from personal e-bike ownership.
Original languageAmerican English
PublisherNational Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
StatePublished - 2024

Publication series

NamePresented at the Transportation Research Board (TRB) 103rd Annual Meeting, 7-11 January 2024, Washington, D.C.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5400-88303

Keywords

  • Colorado
  • data
  • deep decarbonization
  • e-bike
  • mobility

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