This is the way to travel in London
London. Historic and beguiling. A crucible of multiculturism. A hub for business and fun. A transport node for the country and the world. The place a little under 10 million people call home. But London is also frequently cited as the world's most congested city. It's a place where mandates to stay inside due to pollution levels are becoming more and more common - a place where 1/3 of all car journeys are under 1.5 miles. And yet we all need to get about. Today's modern, transient lifestyle calls for house parties at the drop of a hat, business meetings on the other side of town or a Facebook bargain that's caught your eye. And so, it's about time we let you into a secret:
Electric bikes. This is the way to travel in London.
Velorution believes that electric bikes keep a bank balance looking positive, free up more of your precious time and nudge your physical and mental health in the right direction. Public transport, walking, scooters - cars even - all have their place, but we're advocates for an increase in cycling in London - a transport mode that accounted for only 3.4% of travel in 2020. A figure aeons away from other European cities like Berlin (12.5%), Copenhagen (30%) and Amsterdam (32%). And let's be clear, we're suggesting that electric bikes aren't just for cycling to work - they're for living, shopping, moving, being in London.
In 2020, we consulted Dr Ian Walker, environmental statistics and traffic psychologist at the University of Bath, to discuss whether coronavirus had been the catalyst for real change in cycling as a mode of transport. Almost two years have passed since, and with eyes switching from pandemics to climate change, it's time to illustrate again how cycling (electric bikes in particular) can be a force for good.
"Very well, but you're a retailer of bicycles, wink, wink, nudge, nudge." We hear you. If the internet needs something, it's not another self-interested muggins shouting into oblivion. For each cost, time and health statistic in this piece, you'll find an accompanying citation, source or credit. Statistics may have been crafted to shock, awe and generate clicks, but we stand by them. What you choose to do once you've read them is up to you.
£1,860 - Average yearly running cost for a petrol car*
Recent research by an animal-orientated price comparison site has shown that average yearly running costs for a petrol car have risen to nearly £2000 (the cost is around £600 less for an electric car). That calculation takes the following into account: insurance, fuel, TAX, MOT and breakdown cover. Compare that to charging (£20.85), insurance (£107.34), and a yearly service (£100) - it's easy to show (an 87% reduction in running costs) how electric bikes come out on top. Furthermore, for Londoners, or those commuting into London, the yearly petrol running cost doesn't include the recently expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone.
£3,750 - A yearly ULEZ bill for a non-compliant car*
On the 21st of October 2021, London's ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) expanded to the North and South Circular. Our calculation assumes 300 days of driving in the capital with a non-ULEZ compliant car. ULEZ aims to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide emissions across the capital by up to 80%. Pleasingly, that same TFL webpage tells us that more than 80% of cars driving in the zone are compliant, up from 39% in February 2017. Still, a potential commute from outer London (or beyond) into the ULEZ could hit your pocket hard. Whilst its perhaps not a fair comparison, the Bicycle Association reports the average price of an electric bike sold in the UK to be £1,854.
£205 - The average maximum cost of a residential London car parking permit*
Using a public car park in London can be expensive. As can parking a car back at home. The average maximum car parking permit now sits a shade over £200. Of course, there's wide variation between boroughs and costs by vehicle type - indeed, parking permits for electric cars are (controversially) offered at a drastically reduced rate. For those of us with an abode that can accommodate an electric bike, even an electric cargo bike, storage is free and secure.
We're afraid it's not all good news for electric bikes on this front. For those without a free (monetary and physical) space inside, outside cycle hangers can be costly and are in very short supply. Despite providers like Cyclehoop adding over 2000 spaces so far in 2022, research by Fare City has shown that in some London boroughs, there are over 8000 people on hanger waiting lists. More to do then!
£2,812 - The annual cost of a zones 1-6 travelcard*
London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Use is widespread. In 2021 55 million individual journeys were made every month via the London Underground. But alongside the cost of an annual travelcard in the city, the underlying issues of crowding, punctuality and flexibility remain. We've already illustrated the outlay and running costs of an electric bike, but the freedom and go-when-you-please nature of an e-bike is hard to beat.
2.4mph faster - Going by bike in London when compared to the average speed of all road users*
Electric bikes provide assisted riding up to 15.5mph - a speed four-wheeled road users in central and inner London can only dream of. Data recorded in 2020 puts that figure at just 10mph. Meanwhile, the routing systems within London's Santander Cycle App calculate fast journey times at 12.4mph or 20kph - an average journey speed easily achieved on an electric bike. Does the gentle assistance of an electric bike and the free-flowing cycleways of London sound more appealing now?
*Source: Fig 7.14. Speed of traffic in central and inner London during 2020. https://tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/travel-in-london-report-14-data.xlsx
19.4% - Population of London that is within 400 metres of a cycleway*
Commonly cited as the largest barrier to people cycling in the UK, it's clear that other road users, prevent people from getting on bikes. And so it was with delight that we found this statistic - nearly 2 million Londoners live within a stone's throw from a dedicated cycleway. These routes link businesses, key destinations and communities to make travelling by bike fun, stress-free and ultimately fast! As more of the capital's residents work from home or spend less time commuting, flexible travel has become paramount. Electric bikes and access to cycleways will enable us to live the lives we want to live. To titivate us even more, nestled in TFLs Travel in London Report 14 is the body's commitment to increase the distance figure to 33% by 2025.
Reduced by 24% - The possibility of developing a cardiovascular illness declines when cycling to work*
In a 2020 paper released in the medical journal, The Lancet, this nugget appears: "compared with commuting by private motorised vehicle, bicycle commuting was associated with a 20% reduced rate of all-cause mortality." Even a haphazard google search for cycle to work benefits illicit page after page of benefits, with some studies suggesting a 41% reduction in death from all causes. That's all very well, but electric bikes are cheating, no? Our last factoid in this piece is out to disprove this fallacy.
94% of the time - Studies have shown that electric bike riders' heartrates match conventional bike riders*
Perceived health benefits of electric bikes have been largely misunderstood so it's exciting to see a developing body of work that looks to understand how much of a 'workout' an electric bike ride can be. We've taken our final fact from a 2019 study which saw cyclists take on the same loop using an electric mountain bike and a like-for-like non-electric model. Despite feeling like they had less of a workout, their average heart rate on the electric bike was only 9.9bpm lower.
In a more relevant study for this article, researchers assessed 10,000 riders in European cities, concluding that "Metabolic Equivalent Task minutes per week (MET min/wk) were similar among e-bikers and cyclists." The authors also found that riders on electric bikers rode on average 1km further than those on bicycles. Is the office looking a bit closer now?
Cost, time and health are three considerations we should make when choosing a mode of transport. If we haven't convinced you that electric bikes are the way to travel in London, perhaps we've enlightened you in other ways. If so, we'd consider our job done. Please comment on the article below - we'd love to hear your thoughts.