They are not 'cheating,' but are serious transportation.
People used to complain that using an e-bike was "cheating," which I thought was dead and gone, writing a post two years ago, "Let’s Stop Even Talking About E-Bikes Being 'Cheating'" Yet as this recent tweet demonstrates, it is still happening.
I have tried to make the case that e-bikes are often used differently than regular bikes, that people use them more often and go much farther, and have quoted a study which finds that e-bike riders get as much exercise as riders of regular bikes because they ride farther. Now a new study, "Do people who buy e-bikes cycle more?" gives us real numbers, and they are huge. Not only that, but the e-bikes are replacing cars more than they are replacing bikes.
The researchers, Aslak Fyhri and Hanne Beate Sundfør, studied the before-and-after habits of people who bought e-bikes in Oslo, Norway. The e-bikes were Euro-style pedelec designs, which means that the rider has to pedal for the motor to run, there is no throttle. They compared these results to a group who were interested in e-bikes but had not yet purchased them, asking the questions:
If buying an e-bike is related to a larger change in total cycling kilometers than short term access
If buying an e-bike is related to a larger change in cycle share than short term access
If the study outcome is dependent upon the choice of the comparison group.
The Dramatic Results
The people who bought e-bikes increased their bicycle use from 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) to 9.2 kilometers (5.7 miles) on average per day; a 340% increase. The e-bike's share of all their transportation increased dramatically too; from 17% to 49%, where they e-biked instead of walking, taking public transit, and driving.
The researchers call this the "e-bike effect," but worried that people might be riding so much because they just bought the bike and there is the novelty of it, so they are using it a lot, similar to what happens when people buy fancy gym equipment. They discounted this because in fact, people rode their e-bikes more the longer they had them; "it confirms previous findings indicating that people tend to go through a learning process where they discover new trip purposes for where to use the e-bike."