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The E-bike: opportunities for commuter traffic. The potentials of using electric bicycles and –scooters in commuting traffic in relation to energy use, local emissions and the accessibility of a compact Dutch city

By Wiebe Engelmoer

Abstract

SUMMARY The electric bicycle and -scooter are entering the personal mobility market quickly due to a number of advantages over conventional modes of personal mobility. However, the effects of this relative new mode of transport are quite unknown. Therefore this master thesis addresses the effects of E-bike use on accessibility and environment for commuter traffic in compact Dutch cities. Tangible scenarios for commuter traffic to the city of Groningen show effects of E-bike use on total energy usage and emissions. This research was initiated by the region Groningen-Assen (cooperation of 2 provinces and 12 municipalities in the Netherlands) and DHV BV with the aim to investigate whether the E-bike might be suitable for mitigating accessibility problems and reducing energy use and most relevant emissions of commuter traffic. Secondly, this thesis might provide valuable information for policy makers, when they want to continue their efforts to promote the use of E-bikes in daily commute traffic. Main research question: What is the effect of E-bike usage on the accessibility of commuting traffic and local environment in compact cities in the Netherlands? Literature study and expert interviews show that the image that E-bikes are meant for the elderly is changing. The E-bike appears to be a cheap, clean and flexible alternative for the car. However, the E-bike is theft-sensitive, traffic safety is an issue and it has a higher environmental impact than the conventional bicycle. The effect of E-bike use on the accessibility of a city and the quality of its environment depend on the change of habits of commuters starting to use an E-bike. Therefore behavioural sciences are needed to understand a commuter’s choice. Mode choice for commuters is determined by objective and subjective factors. It is hard, if not impossible to model mode choice sufficiently. The literature study shows that many factors determine the mode choice of commuters. Working together with experts resulted in a model with the relevant factors for E-bike usage. Costs, traffic safety, image, weather, habits (car use), quality of cycling infrastructure and the presence of facilities are most relevant. Measures focusing at a single factor are ineffective due to the many factors at stake. A balanced package of incentives contains cycling infrastructure and public cycling facilities. Finally different target groups and situations call for tailor made incentives. Mobility management is an effective measure to persuade the car commuter to switch in particular to E-bike. Improvement of cycling infrastructure results in more cycling movements and better accessibility of a compact city. Traffic counts at upgraded cycling routes show in all cases more cycling movements per day; in some cases up to 17%. The utilization of E-bikes enhances the mentioned effects above. A literature study (including model studies, traffic counts and market research) and expert interviews show an increase in the number of cycling movements, a decrease in the number of car movements, a better traffic flow, higher average speeds for commuter traffic and less parking problems in city center. E-bike use results in a larger share of the E-bike in the total number of movements for commuter traffic (modal split). Size and cause of the shift differs per situation and the applied research method. Market research concludes that the total number of commuting cycling trips potentially increases with 4-9% due to a large availability of E-bikes. The E-bike appears to substitute other means of transport for commuting traffic. More than 50% was previously a conventional bicycle user, around 25% car user and the rest public transport and scooter. The E-bike offers advantages concerning energy use and emissions compared to car and bus use. Accurate emission data was available for car and bus in the Netherlands. Since accurate data for E-bike for the Dutch situation was not available, Chinese data sets were analyzed and modified to fit the Dutch situation. The data was used for the scenario analysis for commuter traffic (<15 km) to the city of Groningen in 2020 (Netherlands). The scenario with 10% more E-bike use (modal split: 67.5% car, 7.5% bus, 15% bicycle and 10% E-bike) results in lower total energy use and emissions compared to a business as usual scenario (modal split: 70% car, 10 % bus, 19% bicycle and 11% E-bike). To put the use of E-bikes in perspective alternative options to reduce environmental impact of commuter traffic were calculated as well. Improvements of energy efficiency of cars, car sharing and the E-bike in combination with renewable electricity were included in the analysis. The use of E-bikes offers a substantial contribution to the reduction of the total emissions from commuter traffic. Moreover batteries have a large environmental impact due to scarce material use. Therefore further development of batteries and recycling of materials is important for sustainable personal transport. The E-bike potential for different cycling corridors in the region Groningen-Assen was calculated. An integrated public transport network in combination with the development of car infrastructure, cycling infrastructure and park and ride will guarantee good accessibility for the region Groningen-Assen in the future. Different modalities will strengthen each other. In such integral public transport network the E-bike can have an important role. E-bike use among commuters improves accessibility for commuting traffic to compact cities in the Netherlands. Total energy use and the most relevant emissions will reduce substantially of commuting traffic within ranges of 15 km.

Year: 2012
OAI identifier: oai:ub.rug.nl:dbi/506c2eae39acf
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