We are still in a car centric society. That’s the unfortunate truth. Despite increased cycling initiatives like the social prescribing pilots, most of our infrastructure is based around cars. This is still true of the green transport revolution too- although I think we’re getting better. The assumed next stage in transport isn’t electric bikes or even public transport, it’s electric cars.
I’m not going to try to tell you electric cars are bad. They are cleaner than petrol cars and they are worth developing. However, they should not and can not be the default of green transport. By keeping the idea of car dependance in green transport we are severely limiting the good that we can actually achieve.
Instead we need to focus on the development of active transport like bikes and electric bikes. This means the development of bike friendly cities. Electric bikes in particular have the potential to replace cars as private vehicles. Decreasing the effort you need with a traditional bike while increasing your speed. Electric bikes give people the best of both worlds with only a few compromises.
Ultimately the development of green transport is not one or the other. To really make our transport systems green it takes a mixture of active transport, EVs- including cars- and public transportation.
The Problem With Electric Cars
Ok so yes electric cars are better than petrol cars in use but they shouldn’t be at the forefront of green transport. The biggest problem is that electric cars cut emissions created from driving but they don’t solve any of the problems that come from car centric infrastructure.
All electric cars change is the energy supply in this respect. They still take up the same amount of space in a city as petrol cars. That means there is no increase to our green spaces, which means no carbon reduction from them. It means worsening the heat island effect in urban areas. Trees provide shade in urban areas, cooling them down. Whereas our cars reflect heat back out into the street. We’ve made the case for bike focused cities before.
Another major problem is the time it will take to actually implement electric car use. “Many industry forecasts project that by 2035 to 2040, we are going to be at 60% given current regulations and technology trajectories” the simple truth is that this is too slow. We can’t wait that long for what is frankly still not a high enough percentage.
Electric cars are expensive too. Even at the entry level, that prevents a barrier to people who are trying to get them for their day to day life. When you consider that the average journey is about 8.4 miles would you rush out to buy a £44,000 electric car? Sure maybe when you need to change car but probably not to try one out.
And none of this would be so bad. Every development has problems it has to overcome. After all, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. That is true of electric cars. They could do some great things, but there are better options to put at the forefront.
The Case For Electric Bikes
So we’ll need to admit a bit of bias here, after all we have a passion and a stake in electric bikes. But there is a reason and it’s because we really believe in the ability of electric bikes to help create green transport.
There are some problems too. The industry isn’t green enough yet and electric bikes becoming a standard of transport does mean changing infrastructure. But overall electric bikes do some things that electric cars don’t and that makes all the difference.
Since they take up much less space than cars, electric bikes free up more space in cities. This space can then be used to make cities greener. Cooling them and cleaning the air. Admittedly more electric bikes doesn’t necessarily translate into more green space. They would need to be combined with an effort to reduce reliance on cars in policy too. But it does become an option.
Electric bikes can also be produced much more quickly than electric cars and for a much lower price. This removes the price barrier for people looking to make the change to electric vehicles. It’s just less of a financial risk for the average person. In fact since it’s much cheaper to charge it represents significant savings.
The infrastructural change that’s needed to make electric bikes the most viable option is actually not as bad as you might assume either. At least not at the bare minimum. Take a look at what’s needed:
- Bike racks to keep bikes securely locked when not in use.
- Public charging points to allow riders to charge on the go.
- Increased bike lanes to let riders travel safely.
With these changes electric bikes become much more efficient for the green transport revolution than electric cars. After that the infrastructural changes just keep it getting better.
Bikes Work Better
Honestly it’s that simple. Electric cars aren’t bad, but the fact that they’ve been accepted as the next stage of personal transport so quickly is more to do with car centric society rather than the next logical step.
Electric bikes allow for much greater infrastructural changes with less investment and on a quicker timescale. For those reasons they should be at the forefront of green transport.
But as we’ve said already the solution is not one type of vehicle but working on creating a system of transport throughout our communities. That means bikes for regular traveling, public transport for longer distances and electric cars when nothing else is available.