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Cycling could double in London with shared e-bike systems

By Michiel Modijefsky / Updated: 03 Dec 2018

Shared e-bikes, implemented at scale, could double the number of bicycle trips in London, increasing their modal share and reducing congestion and pollution. A recent report by Steer suggests that 813 000 daily trips in Greater London could switch to shared e-bikes. This would lead to 21 000 fewer hours spent in traffic and 184 fewer metric tons of CO2 emissions every day.

‘Switchable trips’

Based on current trip patterns, the study assessed how many daily trips could potentially switch to shared e-bikes. The study uses a ‘switchable trips’ methodology that is also applied in Transport for London’s  (TfL) – Analysis of Cycling Potential. It considers both complete (door-to-door) trips as well as the first/last mile station access/egress portion of public transport trips. However, it excludes trips by children, people over 80 years of age, and trips that are too long, too short, or that involve accompanying children or carrying luggage.

Modal shift

On this basis, the study finds that out of the 17.4 million daily trips made across Greater London, about 8.2 million trips are potentially ‘switchable’ to shared e-bikes. It is suggested that large-scale deployment of e-bikes would result in a switch of 813 000 daily trips to shared e-bikes. This corresponds to a modal share of 4.7 %, roughly twice the current share. The largest part of the modal shift to e-bikes comes from public transport (325 000 trips), followed by vehicles (279,000 trips), while changes in walking (116 000 trips) and first/last mile (95 000 trips), trips account for the remainder of the modal shift.  


An important assumption underlying the calculations in the report is that the positive trend in cycling use seen in recent years continuous. London Mayor’s Transport Strategy aims to ensure that by 2041, 80% of journeys in London will be made by cycling, walking and public transport. To reach this objective continued investment cycle infrastructure is required which normalises cycling for a wider range of people and for more trips. The introduction of shared bike schemes has been a strong force in popularising cycling. The Steer report estimates that development of a shared  “dockless”  e-bike system(s) at scale would require between 81,000 to 163,000 new e-bikes in London, along with the necessary bike lane and charging infrastructure, to meet the identified demand.

In order to ensure the benefits of such schemes are maximised – and that London avoids the problems they have caused in other cities – a strategic approach is required, a report by the London Assembly Transport Committee concluded earlier this year.

The report calls the implementation of a London-wide licensing scheme involving a small number of operators being licensed to lend bikes across the city. In addition, Supplementary Planning Guidance for cycling should instruct boroughs to require that new developments have parking space for dockless bikes and TfL should provide space in appropriate places on the TfL Road Network.

Currently, TfL does not have the powers to regulate dockless bike operators at a London wide level as this falls within the remit of the local highway authorities. TfL is working with London Councils to explore the possibility of establishing a new bye-law to enable a pan-London approach to be taken.

TfL is also considering the best approach to dockless parking as more bikes are deployed and, based on operational feedback from boroughs, is planning to update its code of practice for operators before the end of 2018. In addition, a new Cycle Parking Strategy is to be developed by spring 2019.

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