The government unveiled the full extent of their ambitious plans to herald "a new golden age for cycling" today; and there's potentially some great news for e-bikers in the 50-page Gear Change document, with the promise of a "national e-bike support programme" to incentivise more people to switch to electric bikes.
Financed by a £2 billion active travel fund announced back in February, thousands of miles of protected cycle lanes have been promised, GP's will be encouraged to 'prescribe cycling' to increase patients' health and air quality will improve by the introduction of more low traffic neighbourhoods.
The part that refers specifically to e-bikes is nestled away on page 39 of the Gear Change document, where the government outline what a "national electrically-assisted bike support programme" could look like. It says:
"Electrically-assisted bikes, or e-bikes, help you pedal using a small motor, powered by a battery which can be charged from a normal household socket. No licence, equipment or insurance is needed to ride one.
"They are particularly useful for people who, for example, need to ride in business clothes without breaking sweat, or to ride up hills, or to travel long distances, who are older or less fit, or who are otherwise put off by the physical effort of an ordinary bike. As such, they could be hugely important in our goal of bringing non-traditional groups to cycling including older and disabled people.
"We will establish a national e-bike support programme, which could include loans, subsidies, or other financial incentives, using the learning from other schemes in the UK and abroad for e-bikes, adapted e-bikes and other e-vehicles."
If the incentives are delivered in the form of a grant, that could mean up to a third off if the discount is similar to the one already obtainable under the plug-in grant scheme for electric cars, according to The Times. Typically e-bikes aren't considered a genuine car replacement by most UK residents, with a recent study by Shimano finding that just 7% of Brits wanted to try an e-bike in the future. As the government say in the statement above, their ambition is for people who are otherwise put off by the physical demands of cycling - such as older people or the disabled - to consider electric bikes as a viable transport solution.
The proposed e-bike support programme would be the first scheme of its kind in England that offers a direct financial incentive from the government for the purchase of e-bikes. In Scotland, residents can already take advantage of an interest-free loan from the Energy Saving Trust, which can support the purchase of two e-bikes capped at £3,000 each, one family e-cargo bike capped at £6,000 or one adaptive e-bike capped at £6,000, with a four year repayment plan - click here to find out more.