In the United States, two e-bikes were sold for every electric car.
E-bike sales outstripped electric car sales in 2020, according to the United Kingdom's Bicycle Association. The trade association notes: "160,000 electric bikes were sold in extraordinary conditions last year, the recap on the year reveals that one e-bike sold every three minutes. Electric cars tallied 108,000 sales with a subsidy to buy attached."
This would not seem surprising, given that electric cars cost about 20 times as much as electric bikes. But guess which mode of transport gets all the attention and the infrastructure investment, with the government spending another 20 million pounds ($27.75 million) on charging points that they often stick in the middle of sidewalks? However, the government is also spending 2 million pounds ($2.78 million) to promote the use of cargo e-bikes for businesses to replace delivery vans, which contribute to dangerous nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions along with carbon dioxide.
Mark Sutton, the editor of Cycling Industry News, wrote about where the bike spike is going in the U.K. and describes how the bike and e-bike industry is changing. He notes our cities have to respond to the bike boom because 77% of U.K. bike retailers believe "lack of safe infrastructure" is the biggest obstacle to growing cycling levels.
"Infrastructure is not just cycle paths, however. For a true end-to-end journey to become viable by bike things like cycle parking must be factored in, employers will have to begin to cater and even incentivise non-car travel (property with showers and cycle-friendly access are now worth more) and residential areas will have to be linked to arteries. People won’t take that first step if the view outside their door is terrifying."
He also does a great explainer of why the real estate development industry in the U.K. has picked up on the bike boom, encouraging people not to drive. He asks: "Are they virtue signaling to encourage go green, or do they know something most people do not about use of space?"
It's a fascinating argument: Developers want to build more, but they know that there isn't room for a lot more cars, which "spill out of our own individual spaces and on to public land, where in theory they have no real right to be." And as we recently noted, when you add more cars, they move more slowly and eventually, not at all. Sutton has a great analogy:
"Fill a funnel full of marbles and then top that up with sand – which filters through the bottleneck? Size and efficient use of space matters and city planners now understand this thanks to the wealth of data at our fingertips. Why are cycle lanes empty, many ask? Because they’re efficient movers of people, traffic jams only ever occur at the lights."
Meanwhile, in the USA...
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According to the World Economic Forum, e-bike sales in the U.S. were up 145% from the previous year, with roughly 600,000 e-bikes sold. And, according to Micah Toll of Electrek, they could have sold more if they had been available. There were 296,000 electric cars sold—down a bit from 2019 because of the pandemic.