Over the past 18 months, sales of bicycles have exploded — with the pandemic spurring an unprecedented demand for outdoor recreation and transportation modes that are compatible with social distancing. The adoption of E-bikes is a particularly impressive trend. Market research firm NDP Group reports North American sales of E-bikes grew 145% in 2020. As 2021 has progressed, sales trends suggest that E-bikes are more than a pandemic fad and are here to stay as a mode critical to addressing issues of congested city traffic.
The increase in bike commuting has impacted the transit industry in many positive ways for cyclists that utilize transit services. Transit networks that connect with bikeshare programs have expanded and many agencies now equip riders with transit apps to help plan multimodal routes that incorporate transit and bikeshare. However, due to the massive increase in private sales, transit agencies are faced with another opportunity to adapt — the growing demand to transport E-bikes on public transit vehicles.
With E-bikes offering an efficient and environmentally friendly “last mile,” how do transit authorities make sure they can support this new trend and leverage the opportunity to increase ridership?
While each transit authority will need to develop its own localized strategy and policy regarding E-bikes, some transit vehicle racks are optimized to support a variety of bicycles. Here are the factors that you need to know to ensure safe transportation:
1. Bicycle Weight and Wheelbase - E-bikes are often heavier than their non-electric counterparts. Look for racks that support up to 55 lbs. per position, and a wheelbase up to 48-inches to accommodate a wide range of bicycles.
2. Tire Width - Many E-bikes have wider tires; therefore, the rack must be able to accommodate the additional width. Fat tire wheel trays are designed to support tire widths up to 5.5 inches. By comparison, standard racks, typically accommodate bicycle tire widths up to 2.3 inches or 3.2 inches, depending upon the exact model.
3. Flexibility - To support the widest range of bicycles and therefore riders, select a rack with an adaptable design. Racks that can be easily retrofit with fat tire wheel trays are key to accommodating E-bikes and can be customized to fit the unique needs of your riders — accommodating one, two, or three fat tire wheel trays. Additionally, if fat tire wheel trays can also be used for standard bikes, you’ll be able to provide full flexibility for a wide variety of bicycle types.
4. Protect Rider’s Investments - Damage-free transport is critical. Be sure the design of the rack prevents bike to bike entanglement and allows for easy loading and removal. Riders will be confident that their E-bike investment is safe and secure — and route delays caused by securement and removal issues will be minimized.
As E-bikes continue to grow in popularity, it will be increasingly beneficial for public transit vehicles to support them as a long-term strategy toward increased mobility. Communicating the capabilities and compatibility of E-bikes on-board is critical to ensuring a safe and efficient experience for riders.
Eric Rayl is President of SportworksView Bio