Document Type


Publication Date



Electric bicycles -- Effect on reducing barriers to cycling, Electric bicycles


The electric bicycle (e-bike) is a low emission mode of transportation that offers communities benefits in the areas of health, planning, time, cost, street safety, congestion, air pollution, noise pollution, and energy security (Blondel, Mispelon, and Ferguson 2011). In a recent study conducted by Portland State University, e-bikes have been found to enable more people to ride a bicycle for longer distances despite physical limitations, difficult terrain, and the presence of cargo (MacArthur et al. 2018). However, overall e-bike adoption in the United States remains limited due in part to high purchase cost (Dill and Rose 2012; Popovich et al. 2014). The Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) states that the average e-bike in America has a wholesale cost of $2,000 (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News 2018). A survey of self-selected e-bike owners in North America found that, on average, an e-bike costs $2,600 to purchase (MacArthur et al. 2018). For comparison, a mountain bike has an average wholesale cost in U.S. of $620 (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News 2018). A conventional bicycle purchased at a specialty store costs $753 on average in U.S., and a conventional bicycle purchased at a department, discount, or chain toy store costs $89 on average (National Bicycle Dealers Association 2015). Clearly, a price disparity exists.

To meet environmental outcomes and increase the number of people cycling, how can e-bikes be shifted out of the early adopter phase? The European Cycling Federation suggests that ebike incentive programs are an effective part of the solution (Haubold 2016). This white paper explores existing literature on e-bike and related conventional bike incentive programs. Web searches using Google and the TRID database were performed to obtain studies and program information pertaining to incentive strategies. In addition, best practices and lessons learned from select programs within the United States were obtained through phone and email correspondence with program organizers. The goal of this white paper is to provide policymakers, agency leads, and local community leaders with a range of techniques to develop and structure e-bike incentive programs to help meet single occupancy vehicle (SOV) and vehicle miles travelled (VMT) reduction objectives.


This paper was prepared by the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University, and lead by research team members behind the LEVER Initiative.



Persistent Identifier