Fitness and speed are among some of the best reasons to commute to work or school on an electric bike.
In 2017, nearly 837,000 Americans rode a bicycle to work, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in September 2018.
That number was down almost 30,000 from the prior year, perhaps, because of the lack of investment in bike lanes or similar infrastructure. Or perhaps because of how long bicycle commutes can take or the effort needed to make them.
Many cycling advocates believe electric bikes could change this trend and encourage more Americans to ride to work or school. Here are five reasons commuters should consider an electric bike.
No. 1: Better Health
Riding an electric bike to work or school keeps you stay active and may have significant health benefits including staving off cardiovascular disease, cancer, or, perhaps, even premature death generally.
An often-cited British Medical Journal (BMJ) report from 2017 found that “cycle commuters and mixed-mode commuting with a cycling component were both associated with a statistically significant lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with non-active commuters.”
Hazard ratio for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CvD) incidence and mortality, and cancer incidence and mortality by commuting mode. Source: “Association between active commuting and incident cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality: prospective cohort study”
“Commuters who cycled to work had a 41-percent lower risk of dying from all causes than people who drove or took public transport. They also had a 46-percent lower risk of developing and a 52-percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 45-percent lower risk of developing and a 40-percent lower risk of dying from cancer,” wrote Kevin Murnane in a Forbes article about the BMJ report.
While it is important to point out that electric bikes are easier (less strenuous) to ride than a traditional bicycle, they still promote physical activity, especially when compared to driving to work or riding a bus.
What’s more, the addition of pedal assistance may make a commuter a lot more likely to leave the car at home and actually bike to work.
“Exercise is necessary in our lives, as we all know by now. People who are physically active are much less likely than sedentary people to develop heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, depression, disabilities in old age, or to die prematurely,” wrote Gretchen Reynolds in a 2016 The New York Times article, adding “But statistics show that, despite its benefits, a majority of us never exercise. When researchers ask why most people offer the same two excuses — they don’t have time to fit exercise into their lives or they aren’t fit enough to undertake exercise.”
“Electric bicycles could address those concerns. Their motors shore up your pedaling as needed — or, with some electric bikes, do the pedaling for you — making climbing hills or riding for long distances less taxing and daunting than the same ride on a standard bicycle. In the process, they could make cycling a palatable alternative to commuting by car, allowing people with jammed daily schedules to work out while getting to work,” Reynolds wrote.
No. 2: Electric Bikes Get You There Faster
Unless you are an elite cyclist with Tour de France experience, an electric bike is going to be faster than its conventional cousins. This can be a significant factor in your commute since the aim is still to get to work on time.
An electric bike’s motor can help riders pedal to speeds of 20-to-28 miles per hour depending on class, according to chapter four of “The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.”
For the sake of example, let’s use the 20-miles-per-hour figure for electric bikes with either pedal assistance or power on demand. Now compare that to an average speed for a conventional bicycle of approximately 11 miles an hour. If your commute was five miles, it would take 27 minutes to ride on a conventional bicycle, but just 15 minutes on an electric bike.
Distance in Miles
|Commute Time for a Bicycle at 11 MPH||Commute Time for an Electric Bike at 20 MPH|
If you needed to travel 12 miles to work or school the journey would take about an hour and five minutes on a regular bicycle or just 36 minutes on an electric bike. While these estimates do compare the electric bike’s top speed (a legal requirement) to an average speed for a standard bicycle, maintaining 20 miles per hour on an electric bike requires about as much work as reaching an average speed on a conventional bicycle.
No. 3: You Can Commute Farther with an Electric Bike
Depending on your point of view, there are two ways that an electric bike could help you commute farther.
First, the faster you ride the further you can go in a given time frame. You may not care how many miles per hour you’re riding, rather you want to know that you can get to work in 15 or 20 minutes.
In this sense, electric bikes can also take you further. If your schedule only allows for a 20-minute commute, you would need to be less than four miles from work or school for a traditional, pedal-power-only bike to work. But an electric bike could take you nearly seven miles in the same amount of time.
Second, electric bikes are easier to ride. A pedal-assist system proportionally adds power to each stroke, so you can ride further than you could on a conventional bike for the same amount of human effort.
If you’re just starting to commute by bike, pedaling ten miles might be a significant physical challenge, but with an electric bike, the ride will be manageable and, frankly, a lot of fun. Thus, an electric bike can help you commute further.
No. 4: Electric Bikes Provide a Sweat-free Ride
If you’re biking across Phoenix, Arizona in August when the average temperature is 105 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re going to sweat. Heck, you might sweat riding in an air-conditioned car in those conditions. So this point — that electric bikes provide a sweat-free ride — is relative, but still pretty true.
From 2005 to 2008, I was a part-time, bike commuter riding 18 miles each way a few days a week. The ride into work left me so sweaty that I would stop at a nearby gym and get a shower before riding the last quarter mile to the office.
I wanted to look neat, clean, and professional at work, and a conventional bike was too much of a workout to skip the shower.
“One of the biggest drawbacks to using a bicycle for your daily commutes is showing up at your destination hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. By using an electric bike, however, you can complete the exact same rides while exerting only a portion of the physical effort. Electric bikes make two-wheeled commuting a much more viable possibility for many people, letting riders enjoy all the benefits of commuting by bicycle while eliminating many of its messiest drawbacks,” according to “The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.”
No. 5: Electric Bike Commuting Saves Money
Riding an electric bike to work can be much less expensive than driving or taking public transportation.
For example, if you commute in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, or San Francisco you could be paying a lot of money just to park your car.
In Manhattan, it is not uncommon to pay $20-to-$50 per day to park a car. Parking a bike is free. If you’re a New Yorker that could be a savings of $400-to-$1,000 per month.
This parking app shows the going rate for day parking in Manhattan.
Next, there is the cost of fuel. A dollar’s worth of gas will take you about 11 miles in a medium-sized sedan. If you drive a pick-up truck, you can go about six and a half miles for $1 in fuel. But a dollar’s worth of electricity could take an electric bike 600 miles or more.
If you have a 10-mile commute (20 miles round trip), you would drive 100 miles per week and some 5,200 miles a year. If your medium-sized sedan got 27 miles to the gallon, your 10-mile commute would consume approximately 192 gallons of gasoline each year.
How much would that cost? The U.S. national average for gasoline was $2.25 per gallon the week of January 21, 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, so let’s use that figure. That’s 192 gallons times $2.25 or $432.00.
Your cost on an electric bike? Perhaps 30 cents.