Investment in cycling infrastructure “would significantly enhance performance” of e-bike sharing hubs, Dublin research shows

— Even if the Government meets its electric car targets, “e-bikes will still contribute more to carbon savings”.

Research into the six-month trial of 12 ESB-electric bicycle hubs located in suburban areas around Dublin has found that a wider number of factors influence the success of such hubs, including the locations of the stations and the quality or existence of cycle routes.

The location of a small number of hubs, including in a park without all-day passive survival, was linked to vandalism, which resulted in the stations being closed for a significant percentage of the trial.

The Trinity College Dublin research was conducted using “six months of real-world GPS data”, with the majority of trips made during the day. The researchers looked at what was called the “eco-efficiency evaluation of the network”, basically the environmental effectiveness of such hubs.

The authors said: “The studied system comprises 12 eHUBs placed around a congested motorway, aimed at encouraging both residents and commuters from satellite towns to switch from private vehicles to e-bikes for their city centre commutes. The analysis of the carbon-saving potential and usage patterns of these eHUBs provided insights into their effectiveness in promoting the shift from private vehicles to shared e-bikes.

The hubs were located in areas dotted around the M50, such as Dun Laoghaire, Finglas, Malahide, Sandyford and Park West. The bikes were operated by a mix of Bleeper and Moby, two bike share companies.

In their conclusion, the authors said: “Importantly, the returns-to-scale analysis provides insights into the system’s scalability, determining the potential for the capacity growth while maintaining efficient operations and service quality, and the profitability prospects of both the entire network and individual stations. As a result, this study offers service providers essential information to make informed decisions regarding the improvement and expanding their services.”

The researchers’ analysis of the e-bike sharing system finds that it is highly scalable, and the evidence “strongly suggests that expanding the system, alongside improvements in surrounding infrastructure, would significantly enhance overall performance.”

“Essentially, any investment directed towards system expansion or infrastructural development, such as additional bike lanes, is likely to yield benefits surpassing the initial expenditure, contributing positively to the surrounding community,” the researchers said.

The research highlighted the “link between the adoption of shared e-bikes and the presence of nearby bike lanes.” Because of this, the authors said that to increase e-bike usage, “Dublin needs to focus on improving cycling infrastructure. The existing fragmented bike lanes and lack of dedicated paths and separate cycleways can deter potential users.”

According to spatial analysis, there was “lower shared e-bike usage in less affluent areas despite lower car ownership rates in these regions”. The researchers said that affordability or a lack of awareness of mobility sharing could be a factor

The researchers evaluated three scenarios for CO2 savings that “demonstrate significant potential” for e-bikes.

“For a comprehensive view of the decarbonisation profile of the e-bike sharing system, three scenarios were evaluated: full replacement of car journeys with e-bike trips, a more conservative estimate derived from the meta-analysis by Bigazzi and Wong (2020), and a sensitivity analysis scenario based on the projected higher adoption of EVs in the private car fleet and cleaner electricity generation.

The paper said: “The outcomes of the third scenario indicate that even if the government successfully meets its ambitious target of one-third penetration of EVs in the 2030 fleet, e-bikes will still contribute more to carbon savings than EVs. When combined with other benefits, such as reducing traffic congestion and enhancing well-being through increased physical activity, e-bikes should be given a more significant role in future transport policy formulations.”

The authors added: “The challenges to this transition are diverse, spanning from inadequate cycling infrastructure to deeply rooted social norms favouring private car usage. Governmental action plays a crucial role in facilitating this shift through the implementation of policies promoting and incentivising sustainable travel.”

The research is being published in open-access format in the August edition of the Transportation Research Journal by Keyvan Hosseini, Tushar Pramod Choudhari, Agnieszka Stefaniec, Margaret O’Mahony, Brian Caulfield at the Centre for Transport Research, Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at Trinity College Dublin.

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