Easy to manoeuvre and far less expensive than cars, e-bikes are making urban transportation more inclusive around the world—especially for women, older adults, and the differently abled.
“The global gender care gap is still significant, with women continuing to take on the majority of household and other unpaid care duties,” writes the non-profit Women Mobilize Women (WMW), a global network of women advocating for urban planning that is built around something other than men and cars. “With an electric cycle or cargo bike, taking the kids to child care or school and then hopping around town to run errands, buy groceries, or other trips becomes a bit easier.”
Micro-mobility—including “everything from a skateboard to a cargo bike” that doesn’t have a combustion engine, doesn’t go faster than 45 kilometres per hour, and uses either electric or pedal-power technologies—is crucial to transport equity, writes WMW. Especially e-bikes and their cargo versions, which provide a fast, effective, and safe door-to-door option for women travelling alone.
“Many women are very familiar with walking alone at night with keys in their fists because their transport choice doesn’t bring them exactly where they need to go,” writes WMW. And while initiatives like dockless e-bikes will not redress the dangers of things like poorly lit streets, “they can be part of a larger solution.”
Women are taking to e-bikes in droves, WMW adds, citing a 2019 study in the Netherlands, which found that women “made 85% more e-bike trips than men” and travelled 14% further.
E-bikes are a particular boon in hilly cities or hot ones, where they “help remove sweat and strain from the equation, eliminating many of the barriers that often influence women’s choices to go by car instead, or the time-cost of having to negotiate potentially disconnected and infrequent public transport.”
But the benefits of micro-mobility do not end with gender equity. Teenagers and seniors also stand to benefit from the independence that e-bikes bring, especially where public transit is limited. And e-bikes—also available as trikes and quads—are a boon to people living with a disability, like the 60% of disabled people in the United Kingdom who lack all access to a car.
“Micro-mobility cannot solve every challenge, but it certainly is helping to create a more inclusive mobility landscape,” writes WMW.
Electric mobility options also stand to increase urban resilience, as extreme weather events that can knock out “fragile car-based networks” become more common.
Together with a “comprehensive, intuitive, and safe mobility network, including separated cycle—or mobility—lanes, accessible storage and charging stations, and public transport networks,” and cost-sharing mechanisms that give even the poorest of people access to the technology, “e-micro-mobility can be part of a more resilient future,” WMW says.