On World Environment Day (June 5), climate charity Ashden argues that the UK’s growing electric bike sector can deliver clean air and economic growth – but Government must step up.

  • E-bikes deliver health, climate and economic benefits – but Britain lags behind rest of Europe
  • Government should put e-bikes at heart of green recovery, climate charity urges
  • Case studies: e-cargobikes.com and Swytch, UK e-bike start-ups

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a surge in bicycle use, with local authorities and national government pledging more support for cycling in the years ahead. Meanwhile, further restrictions on cars and vans in city centres are expected.

Electric bikes (e-bikes) are poised to accelerate Britain’s active travel revolution. As well as helping more people enjoy low-carbon commuting and leisure travel, they could replace many of the polluting delivery vans clogging Britain’s roads.

But e-bike ownership currently lags far behind many other nations in Europe – sales per capita are 20 times higher in Belgium and the Netherlands, and at least 7 times higher in Sweden, Austria and Germany, the Bicycle Association reports. 

Innovative e-bike start-ups are prime examples of how a green recovery from the pandemic can lower emissions and kickstart the economy. On World Environment Day, Ashden CEO Harriet Lamb  has called on the Government to do its bit by backing e-bikes.

She says: “The Government has pledged to invest in active travel, and we must make sure e-bikes are at the heart of these plans. E-bikes can speed us toward a fairer, better society – easing the air pollution that chokes our inner cities, and helping older people and the less fit switch from four wheels to two.

“Politicians must act. Support for e-bikes through cycle to work schemes is welcome, but these initiatives are not open to jobseekers and some older and disabled people – groups that should be prioritised in our green recovery, and are most affected by current restrictions on public transport. We need broader financial incentives for e-bike ownership, like the grants and subsidies offered in other European countries, where e-bikes are more popular.

“UK GPs are to be given more support to prescribe walking and cycling. This should include e-bikes – which deliver proven health benefits. Finally, electric cargo bikes could soon be a common sight on our streets. So let’s make sure new the cycle lanes promised by the Government are wide enough to accommodate these game-changing vehicles.”