The Netherlands are known globally as the number one biking country in the world. Last year a grand total of 409,400 e-bikes were sold there. So, what does it mean that now the Dutch have taken to electric bikes (e-bike) in record numbers? We can safely attribute a shift from thinking that e-bikes are only for the elderly as part e-bikes rise in popularity. Sure, riding a pedal assisted e-bike is not as great a workout as a regular cycle, but it’s still better for your health than walking.
Will this become a trend? Even though the rest of the world is still far behind the Dutch in terms of incorporating cycling into their culture, we do think that the popularity of the e-bike is on a positive trajectory. This is particularly true in urban settings that cater those cyclist that regularly commute to work on their bike or e-bike. Some predict that 10- 15 years in the future, we will no longer speak of e-bikes, but only about bikes in general. Because they do not require a license, special testing and standard battery will provide upwards of 60km per charge we can only assume that they will continue to grow in popularity as both a means of transport and exercise.
Public perception: For the longest time and maybe even now in some circles, e-bike was equated with “cheating”. That an e-bike totally null and voids any effort or health related benefit. As e-bikes continue to penetrate the market and our culture, we’ve learned that that is not true. What has been true since their inception is that e-bikes are a green and healthy way to get around. And with the ever-improving smart technology of the e-bikes, batteries charge quicker, last longer and have reduced in weight and size, which fully supports their green status. Combine the above with the evolution of governments around the globe offering tax incentives for those who commute to work on their bikes and e-bikes, the case for e-bikes continues to improve.
Older riders: A 93 year e-bike rider in the UK wrote into the Guardian to explain that she lives “on a hill which makes it very difficult to get to the nearest bus stop and therefore the local shops. On my bike I can sail up the hill, often overtaking young cyclists pedalling furiously, much to their surprise – that’s a great feeling – and can ride easily to any of the local supermarkets where I can fill my panniers.” She goes on to note that her e-bike has given her “great pleasure and considerably extended my active life. It cost me just under £500, does 18 miles to a charge, 15mph and all I have had to do to keep it on the road is to fit a new set of brake blocks – and it helps to keep me fit.” What her e-bike has given her is freedom, independence and an active lifestyle. How can you argue with that?
By the numbers: According to recent research by the University of Reading and Oxford Brookes University, she, along with other “older” cyclists that ride e-bikes may be getting the same ‘brain benefits’ as those on standard bikes. Whether their bikes are electrically assisted or pedal powered, this research found cyclists between the ages of 50 to 83 all experienced both cognitive and mental health benefits.
These “elders” riding e-bikes had increased mental wellbeing along with improved brain function, which suggest the older users experience positive effects far beyond simply improving their physical activity. The researchers state that “If having a bit of extra help from an electric motor encourages more people to cycle, the positive effects can be shared across a wider age range and with people who are less confident on a bike.”
At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter how they are improving and enhancing their lives, but that they are getting out there and doing it. E-bikes are offering a happier, greener, healthier and a longer active life for older people …and the rest of us.