Incorporating electric bicycles into urban transportation systems in British Columbia

Electric bicycles are emerging as an urban travel mode that blends some of the convenience of private automobiles with some of the emissions, congestion, travel cost, and physical activity benefits of traditional non-motorized bicycles. Promotion of electric bicycles could increase non-auto mode share, but relatively little is known about the potential for electric bicycles to contribute to achieving urban transportation system goals.

Urban planning for electric bicycles currently suffers from insufficient understanding of electric bicycle performance on transportation facilities (particularly interactions with other users of bicycle facilities) and of electric bicycle use outside a small set of early adopters. Electric bicycle policy has lagged the rapidly evolving market, and there is a lack of clear, cohesive public policy regarding regulation, infrastructure and incentives. 

This research will investigate the factors that influence the role of electric bicycles in urban transportation systems, with the goal of informing urban planning to promote and accommodate electric bicycles in Canadian cities. The research objectives are to: characterize current electric bicycle users, usage and policies in BC, examine the potential for increased adoption of electric bicycles to address urban transportation system goals, identify technical, behavioral and institutional barriers to electric bicycle adoption and alignments and misalignments in policies and perceptions among stakeholders, recommend actions by municipal, provincial and federal governments to remove barriers, maximize benefits and mitigate risks of electric bicycle adoption and identify research needs and stakeholders for future study.

The proposed research will generate new knowledge about influences on electric bicycle use and will inform urban planning practice with specific policy recommendations to incorporate electric bicycles into urban transportation systems in BC and elsewhere in Canada.