With the growing number of eBikes and electric scooters finding their way into the homes of New Zealanders from Invercargill to Cape Reinga, there’s a big question hovering over their suitability for commuting.
The question isn’t if eBikes and eScooters can do it, because they clearly can. Instead, it is if our workplaces are generally eBike and eScooter ready.
“Most offices weren’t designed for traditional cycling and the most obvious shortcoming is the absence of showering facilities after a sweaty pedal,” says Marleen Goedhart, Director of Icon Conference and Event Management which puts on the annual New Zealand eBike Expo. “The great news is that eBikes eliminate this major challenge and that means more workplaces than ever can accommodate eBikes.”
Along with helmet-hair, one of the major drawbacks of a regular bicycle is the sheer effort required, particularly if there are hills around – although even a flat commute can get the heart pumping and the sweat flowing. The assisted pedalling of an eBike means you zoom along at a comfortable 25 to 30km/h with minimal effort. Wearing a suit while remaining cool, in other words, isn’t a problem.
That’s why eBikes have made cycling to work a real possibility for far more people, with various health and cost advantages for the individual. It’s resulted in steep growth for the industry, with more than 40,000 eBikes and scooters imported in 2018.
When people bike to work, there are also benefits for workplaces as a Sport and Recreation NZ report makes clear: Parking for 10 bikes can be provided for the cost of a single car park space, office transport, air pollution and road congestion are reduced, and the company benefits from a greener corporate image.
But once you arrive at work, things could get tricky. “The next major issue is finding a suitable safe parking for your bike,” Goedhart notes. “After all, bikes are lightweight and portable and therefore must be secured. A standard car park doesn’t cut it.”
A University of Auckland research paper studying the introduction of eBikes at the Auckland District Health Board confirms their suitability for commuting. Attributes including an expanded travel radius, increased efficiency over other transport modes, reduced stress and make active transport more realistic for women.
Given gridlock challenges and the health benefits, it is therefore no surprise that the government makes available employer eBike purchase schemes, helping more working New Zealanders on to one of the machines.
But it isn’t a one-way street. Parking for cars is a widely recognised problem in major cities and though eBikes take up far less space, they do need some of it. In the University of Auckland study, participants noted that finding a suitable spot to safely leave an expensive item was a problem. There’s also the issue of the availability of electricity outlets.
Hence, among the recommendations of the paper is that workplaces provide additional secure bike parking, with eBike charging facilities. ‘This will reduce levels of anxiety about bike theft and range anxiety – both of which are limiting the generation of new eBike trips amongst existing eBike users’, it said.
And the Sport and Recreation report has further good news. Making a workplace eBike friendly doesn’t have to cost the proverbial arm and leg. In the case of Christchurch sports apparel brand Macpac, appropriate space is provided by a covered bike shed with parking for 50 bicycles. Built in 2001, the shed cost $7,000.
Goedhart says many workplaces are already eBike ready and taking advantage of the schemes available to get workers on their bikes. “Given the benefits to individuals and companies, and the fact that establishing necessary facilities needn’t cost much, there are real incentives in place for employers and employees alike. And I think this will result in a continuing steep growth trajectory for the eBike industry.”
Local businesses are invited to a corporate VIP preview on Friday, 15 November from 9am – 10:30am to explore potential fleets, chat to the exhibitors and take some models for a test ride.
For more information on the corporate VIP preview and eBike expo, visit http://www.ebikeexpo.co.nz/