Publication Detail

The Transition to Electric Bikes in China and its Effect on Travel Behavior, Transit Use, and Safety


Working Paper

China Center for Energy and Transportation

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Suggested Citation:
Weinert, Jonathan X., Chaktan Ma, Xinmiao Yang (2006) The Transition to Electric Bikes in China and its Effect on Travel Behavior, Transit Use, and Safety. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Working Paper UCD-ITS-RR-06-15

Despite rapid economic growth in China over the past decade and rise in personal car ownership, most Chinese still rely on two-wheeled vehicles (2WV) or public transport for commuting. The majority of these 2WVs are bicycles. In recent years, concern about poor air quality in urban areas and rising energy costs have caused cities to ban gasoline-powered scooters in city centers. Simultaneously, a new 2WV mode emerged to fill the void: the electric bike (e-bike).

This shift from bicycles to e-bikes is occurring at rapid pace throughout China, especially in large cities. E-bike sales reached 10 million/yr in 2005 as more bike and public transit users shifted to this mode. City planners and policy makers are undecided however on how to plan for and regulate e-bikes because it is not yet clear what effect they will have on travel behavior, public transportation use, and safety. In order to determine these effects, the authors have thus surveyed bike and e-bike users in Shijiazhuang (SJZ), a city with particularly high two-wheeled vehicle (2WV) use, to identify differences in travel characteristics and attitudes.

We conclude the following: (partial list)
  • E-bikes are enabling people to commute longer distances. This will likely result in more employment opportunities and the further expansion of cities.
  • People under-served by public transportation are shifting to e-bike.
  • Women feel safer crossing intersections on an e-bike compared to regular bike, however they have strong reservations about e-bike speed.