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'Pretty remarkable': UBC study finds e-bike rebates led to decreased car use


There's new evidence that offering people incentives to purchase e-bikes can significantly reduce their reliance on cars.

A number of e-bike incentive programs have launched in B.C. over recent years, including in the Victoria-area city of Saanich, which offered buyers rebates of $350 to $1,600 through a pilot program in 2021 and 2022.

A study from the University of British Columbia found e-bike adoption subsequently surged in that community – with 60 per cent of purchasers being entirely new to cycling.

Those who took part also reduced their weekly vehicle travel by 48 kilometres on average, a decrease of 30-40 per cent.

"Travel behaviour has a lot of inertia, it doesn't change a lot," explained Alex Bigazzi, principle investigator on the study,

"So when you find things that get it to the double-digits of shifts in travel behavior, it's pretty remarkable."

Cycling advocates told CTV News it makes sense people with e-bikes would use them more than cars.

“There's a reason the couriers are all on bikes, it's a faster way of getting there than driving,” said Jeff Leigh, president of HUB Cycling Vancouver.

“They allow people to replace the shorter-distance vehicle trips.”

Buying an e-bike upfront can be pricey. In Vancouver, E-Nic Ebike sells the motorized transports for anywhere from $799 to around $4,000.

Manager Katy Lu told CTV News the bikes sell for an average of "about $1,500" – but that the price tag hasn't slowed sales, which she said are booming.

In the long run, experts said e-bikes could save their owners money.

“They're going to be saving on gas and wear and tear on their vehicle,” said Glenys Verhulst, Saanich’s sustainability planner.

Verhulst said some owners also "shed a vehicle if they’re a two-vehicle household and they become a one-vehicle household.”

She said the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Saanich comes from "personal transportation," and the district is looking into ways to cut down on that. E-bike incentives are just one of the tools.

Researchers said incentive programs can push people to more environmentally-friendly transportation, but the roads need to be friendly to riders as well.

“We can't just give people e-bikes,” Bigazzi said. “It has to be supported with a broader set of infrastructure and associated policies to make cycling safe.”

He said this study is a good step toward creating cheaper and more environmentally-friendly transportation. Top Stories

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