As with all bicycles during the pandemic, electric bikes, or those with battery-powered motors to handle propulsion, boomed. The market research firm NPD Group said sales of e-bikes grew 145 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, outpacing sales of all bikes, which were up 65 percent.
“Bike categories that catered to families and recreational and newer riders grew better than more performance-oriented bikes,” said Dirk Sorenson, a sports industry analyst at NPD, adding that e-bikes “overcome challenges like big hills or going on a longer ride than a typical bike.”
But it’s not just consumer sales that have mainstreamed e-bikes. Municipal bike-sharing systems have increasingly adopted the technology, with some cities, including Charlotte, N.C., going with an all-electric fleet during the pandemic.
Social distancing demands, the quest for safe and more accessible public transportation and sustainable travel measures have forged a growing adoption of e-bikes among travelers as well as local residents. Cities, bike-sharing companies and even a peer-to-peer bike-sharing platform (in which bike owners rent their bikes directly to users) are jumping into the e-bike ecosystem. Here’s how bike-sharing — sometimes called “micromobility” to include other small vehicles, such as scooters — has shifted in the tourism lull.
Covid did not kill bike-sharing
In the early days of the pandemic, bike-share usage stalled as those working from home stopped commuting. For essential workers who needed to travel, bike-sharing became an alternative to buses or trains, where they might be exposed to the virus by other passengers. Lyft, which manages bike-share fleets in nine cities — including the largest systems in New York City and Chicago — gave about 30,000 essential workers free yearly passes.
“Covid was able to highlight micromobility as an essential transportation service, filling in where transit service stopped or where gaps existed and helping essential workers get to work,” said Samantha Herr, the executive director of the North American Bikeshare Association.