The EVELO Blog

Uber Movement tracks automobile travel times for several major cities.

Electric Bikes vs. Cars: 5 Reasons the Bike Might be Better for Commuting

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For many, if not most, Americans an electric bike complements a car. One is used for recreation and the other for practical transportation. Which role each plays, however, could be changing, and there are at least five reasons that an electric bike may be a better choice for commuting and transportation.

Let’s be clear. A bicycle or electric bike won’t make sense for every commute everywhere. If you have to go from Livermore, California to San Jose, the 35-mile trip would take about two hours on an electric bike. While that ride would be a lot more pleasant than fighting traffic on Interstate 680, you could make the drive in about half the time.

Your E-bike Can Be Fast

A car is not always faster or more reliable than an electric bike for commuting.

Imagine you live in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. It’s a good place. Lot’s of folks would be happy to be where you are.

Work, however, is at the Gateway Center right next to Point State Park at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers about six miles away.

On an electric bike, your trip might take 20 minutes (it would be almost all downhill on the way to work as you drop 417 feet in elevation). For a significant portion of the commute, you would be on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which is protected from automobile traffic, and a pretty awesome way to see some of the city (and lots of parking lots).

Three Rivers Heritage Trail runs next to Interstate 375 for much of your route. The trail is generally protected from automobile traffic. It is clear and fast almost year around.

 

The drive would take around 13 minutes on your way to work and 19 minutes on the way home, according to data from Uber Movement for trips taken from June 1 to August 31, 2018.

Uber, the ride-sharing folks, have released anonymized trip data for several cities, including Pittsburgh. This data shows the average automobile travel time between locations. In the case of our example that the average travel time for your route with be 15 minutes with things going a bit better in the morning and a bit worse during the peak afternoon commute.

Uber Movement data provides travel times in several cities, including Pittsburgh.

 

Thus, the difference between riding an electric bike to work and taking a car is a matter of a few minutes. In fact, during the peak afternoon commute, it could be a matter of one minute.

Your personal commute will, of course, be different than this example in Pittsburgh, but it should serve to demonstrate that it is at least possible that your commute can be just as fast on an electric bike as it is in a car. What’s more, Interstate 375 has had the odd accident and closure which would suddenly wreck an automobile commute. The route you would take on an electric bike is more reliable.

You Don’t Have to Park

Let’s continue with our Pittsburgh example.

As you ride up to the Gateway Center on your e-bike you won’t have to worry about parking a car. Depending on your company’s policies, you might be able to wheel your bike directly into your office. Worst case, you lock it up outside.

That will never work for your car. In fact, parking a car anywhere near the Gateway Center can be both difficult and expensive. Many of the locals actually park across the river next to Heinz Field (where the Steelers play) and walk back to downtown over the Fort Duquesne Bridge.

This maneuver will cost you about five more minutes in drive time and about 15 minutes of walking. Meaning that the total commute time just about doubled if you drove.

An Electric Bike is Better for Your Health

Riding an electric bike can produce a number of significant health benefits. Pedaling just a few miles a day as you commute to work may be able to help you lose unwanted weight, improve your heart health, boost your immune system, and stave off type-2 diabetes.

What’s more, if you go to the gym just to walk on a treadmill or swing your feet on an elliptical machine, you might be able to drop the gym membership and get just as much exercise on your bike.

In contrast, driving a car to work does not contribute at all to your physical health. It actually harms you. Time magazine reported that commuting to work by car will raise your blood sugar, make your cholesterol relatively higher, and increase both anxiety and depression.

You’ll Save a Lot of Money

Driving an automobile in American costs at least 50 cents per mile. In fact, “the AAA’s 2018 report found that a typical American household driving about 15,000 per year would spend 58.99 cents per mile for every mile driven. That works out to be $8,848.50 a year to drive a car to work, to the grocery store, and to your child’s afternoon soccer practice.”

This figure from the AAA doesn’t take into account things like paying to park your car in downtown Pittsburgh or really anywhere. If you have to pay to park, pay tolls, or pay a commuting fee, driving to work is even more expensive.

When you consider just how much an automobile costs to own and operate, spending a few thousand dollars on an electric bike seems like a real deal.

Commuting to Work is Fun

Most of the items on this list have been objective. For example, the time it takes to commute from Squirrel Hill to the Gateway Center can be measured. The parking situation in downtown Pittsburgh or in any town can be tested. The health benefits of bicycling are well documented, and it is a real thing that cars are expensive to operate.

But our final item is subjective. It is dependent on your attitude toward riding an electric bike. Simply put if you enjoy bicycling, riding an e-bike to work is probably going to be a lot more fun than sitting in a car in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

If you want to learn more about electric bikes, you should check out The Complete Electric Bike’s Buyer’s Guide.

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