E-bike riders still face serious obstacles on our roads

E-bike expo

Source: Bicycle Network

A lack of infrastructure, safety concerns and government support is slowing the adoption of e-bikes in Australia, despite a steady increase in imported vehicles.

Phil Latz, from the MicroMobility report, is a regular e-bike rider.

But he said “pathetic infrastructure” for e-bike riding in Australia was curtailing adoption.

“You only have to compare it with countries like the Netherlands and Germany in Europe, in both the scale of their e-bike purchases and the average unit purchase,” he said.

“The No.1 thing that puts a lid on that potential market is the lack of infrastructure and people not feeling safe.”

According to Latz’s estimates, e-bike imports have dropped slightly from 2021-22 to 2022-23. But the total number has increased drastically since before the Covid-19 pandemic, while the total value of e-bike imports into Australia has reached more than $250 million each year.

He said reducing speed limits in suburban and urban streets would save lives.

“At 30km/h, 90 per cent of cyclists when hit by a car survive and only 10 per cent die, and at 60km/h, 90 per cent die and 10 per cent survive,” Latz said.

“We’re not talking main roads here, we’re talking about residential streets. Your side streets should all be 30km/h.”

European countries have embraced e-bikes by creating better infrastructure for riders, Latz says. Photo: Getty

 Money saver?

According to the Bicycle Network, a non-profit, membership-based organisation for riders, the average savings for someone swapping their car for an e-bike is $9047.

In its pitch for Australians to adopt e-bikes as both a money-saving form of transport and a way to cut carbon emissions, the network’s CEO Alison McCormack said they allowed people to “swap cars for a healthier, cost-effective alternative”.

“E-bikes have given us a powerful tool to create change,” she said.

“They offer an easy solution for the replacement of car trips and an accessible opportunity to dramatically reduce fossil fuel demand around the globe.”

Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles contribute 60 per cent of Australia’s transport emissions and over 10 per cent of all carbon emissions.

The Bicycle Network wants e-bikes to be subsidised in a similar way to SUVs – which are now the most popular cars on the road.

Driving adoption

Tasmania became the first state to subsidise e-bike purchases last year.

It offers a 12 per cent rebate, up to $500, for people who buy an e-bike for transport.

Latz said e-bikes represented 28 per cent of the cycling market.

“A national subsidy for e-bike purchases would be nice, but better still there’s a 5 per cent tariff on e-bikes imported into Australia, depending on which country they come from,” he said.

“We’re taxing something that is fantastic for our health, environment, urban transport and social equity.”

He said the market share for e-bikes already outstripped electric vehicles for all car types.

“Electric cars last year were only 7.6 per cent of the market, whereas e-bikes are already up to 28 per cent in the bike market,” Latz said.

“There are many benefits, including letting people ride who perhaps couldn’t otherwise ride.”

Topics: Consumer
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