The electric bike is popular on the roads of France

For the second year in a row, the electric bicycle is winning a place of choice in the hearts and underfoot of the French. Sales explode and state aid is plentiful. But from the point of view of infrastructure and security, public policies are still lagging behind.

Last year, France sold 660,000 e-bikes. According to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, the little queen is “the most bought means of transport by the French”. // Half point / Adobe Stock

Get ready and ride! Yes, but with help. More and more French people prefer the electric bicycle for their daily trips. Whether they’re disappointed in the car or neo-athletes terrified of the steeper climbs, hundreds of thousands of new electrically-assisted bicycle (VAE) aficionados have taken to the roads and paths in 2021.

According to Virgile Caillet, general delegate of the association Union Sport & Cycle, no “formal and quantitative information allow establishing the typical profile of e-bike users”. However, the professional guarantees that there is no“a great diversity of French people who make the VAE their daily means of transport”.

Hundreds of thousands of e-bikes sold

Without being able to provide exact statistics, Virgile Caillet nevertheless establishes three portraits of VAE drivers. The latter distinguishes, first of all, the “cyclists” : under 35, use VAE to go to work. Although still in the minority, this phenomenon is not isolated. The association Paris en Selle thus reveals that 8% of intramural commuter trips in Paris are made by bicycle. INSEE data show that the French live on average 9.2 kilometers from their place of work. In this sense, the electric bicycle represents a serious alternative to the car. “The e-bike is ideal for home-work trips of up to 10 kilometers. Driving at 15-20km/h, the journey takes about 30 minutes”explains Virgile Caillet.

Read too: Investigation. How to increase bicycle trips in city centers?

In turn, the elderly rode an electric bike to play sports, without fear of exerting too much effort. Finally, the managing director of Union Sport & Cycle says that many 30-45 year olds do not hesitate to invest in a cargo bike to get around with their family.“There are three types of cargo bikes: the cargo bike, the cargo bike and the long tail. These vehicles can be used both to transport children and to run errands. For professionals, the cargo bike is interesting for managing last-mile logistics.”says Virgile Caillet.

Thanks to its growing role in mobility, e-bike sales have exploded in the last couple of years. The results of the 2021 edition of Observatório do Ciclo indicate that of the 2.8 million bicycles sold last year, 660,000 were VAEs. That’s more than in 2020, when 515,000 units were sold. Clearly, e-bike sales are up 28% in one year. Industry professionals note that the popularity of VAE represents a significant part of their revenue. Indeed, if sales of electric bicycles represent 24% of the global volume, they account for 59% of revenues.

France, nation of electric bicycles

State financial aid is partly behind the increase in the VAE in France. An August 12 decree provides that financial aid for the purchase of an electric bicycle will be extended until the end of the year. Thus, any buyer with a tax income of less than 13,489 euros can claim aid of 300 euros. This amount increases to 400 euros for people with disabilities and with taxable income below 6,300 euros. For the purchase of a cargo bike, the bonus amount goes up to 1,000 or 2,000 euros depending on the profile. From now on, obtaining this aid is no longer subject to the payment of municipal or regional bonuses, as determined by the old decree.

Read too: Recycled e-bike and scooter batteries from 2021

The Government welcomes the development of electric bicycles in France and wishes to intensify its expansion. The challenge for Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is to make “accessible” this means of transport“ecological and good for health”. It says it wants France to become a “Bicycle Nation”. For this, Elisabeth Borne announced, on September 20, the birth of a second Bike Plan. A €250 million envelope will be used in 2023 to develop infrastructure and parking spaces.

Safety, ” It makes no sense “

Virgile Caillet considers these two aspects to be conditions sine qua non for the implementation of the electric bicycle. According to the managing director of Union Sport & Cycle, several safety-related brakes remain.“You have to act on two levers: security and theft and damage. In urban areas it is absurd: bikes are hanging everywhere”, regrets. Then he adds that “For the bicycle to be truly seen as a serious mobility alternative, you must not be constantly afraid of having your bicycle stolen”. To address this issue, several cities are planning to open secure bicycle parking lots, such as near the TGV Massy (Essonne) station.

Read too: Eight mandatory bicycle spaces on new or refurbished trains as of March 2021

The development of these parking spaces could also promote intermodality, that is, the fact of integrating the bicycle in transport routines. “Today, many people take their car to catch the train. We need real political support to make cities compatible with cycling.”, insists Virgile Caillet. And on the bike paths, the specialist considers that it is not about multiplying them in an anarchic way. “The wrong way [de la circulation des voitures, NDLR], Does not make sense. We need a global strategy”he warns.

On these various points, the French expect efforts from their political representatives. According to the 2021 edition of the Cycling Cities Barometer, the overwhelming majority of cyclists report bad experiences. They denounce problems of safety, comfort and insufficient efforts by cities. In some small towns like Marseillan (34), Le Teich (33), Ychoux (40) or Magny-les-Hameaux (78), the lights are green. In terms of big cities, the only one that bikers rate correctly is Strasbourg. And Paris in all this? “The city does a lot for cycling. But given the fluidity of traffic, it would be necessary to think differently on the lanes”considers Virgile Caillet.

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