Irena Hlede (Finance),  02.12.2020

The EU Green Plan emphasizes the importance of the transition to more sustainable forms of mobility within the activities to reduce air pollution, for which substantial subsidies of as much as EUR 3 billion are envisaged for the entire area. How can we also compete for our share of this cake and what stereotypes should we overcome?

Sustainable mobility is a term that is well established, but nevertheless its content, especially in the area where it “touches electricity”, is often poorly or misunderstood. However, the growth of the electric bicycle industry in recent years demonstrates the great interest of users and the wide applicability of this bicycle upgrade.

Electric bikes – get your fingers crossed!

Electric bicycles are no longer a novelty, but their presence on the Slovenian market is still accompanied by a lot of stereotypes. The most common is that they are especially suitable for retirees and the elderly, who, I quote, “have already stopped cycling, but now they are running back on bike paths and roads – at a speed of 25 km / h, as fast as an electric motor.” . The quote is taken from Motorevija magazine, and given that he comes from a well-known and well-educated journalist, his message certainly represents many views of less informed people. But is that at least roughly true?

In a quick overview, we will get to know the right target groups of this segment of bicycles and the opportunities it opens to both the private and public sectors as a mobility option that can successfully replace fossil fuel powered vehicles and thus reduce air pollution and improve user health. For better transparency, we divided them into two groups – the first, who cycle for recreation, and the daily migrants, for whom cycling is a way of accessing the workplace and after chores.

Electric tourists

Let’s start with the basic stereotype of retirees who can no longer ride bicycles, but electric bicycles allow them to “second spring” and recall the fact that today many older people are much stronger and fuller than many much younger than them. The electric bicycle only serves as an occasional aid, especially because the focus of the industry, as well as subsidies, is on electric-assisted bicycles, which help the cyclist only up to a speed of 25 km / h. Of course, cycling speeds can be much higher. For all other seniors who may have really stopped cycling or are struggling with health problems, electric bicycles can really make an important contribution to healthy mobility. That is why all these elderly people are certainly an important target group of the electric bicycle industry, but they are far from the only ones!

So let’s keep going. If we stay with the “weak” users, they are primarily disabled. These are a target group that remains ignored from everyday life, as we know where they are all stigmatized: almost entirely on public transport vehicles, ie buses and trains, and then there are a number of architectural barriers that they face on a daily basis. On the other hand, we know that people with disabilities are also enthusiastic and successful athletes, and the bike is certainly very attractive to them. Of course with electric support even more accessible and attractive.

But here our list of the “helpless or weak” is far from over. Children are becoming a very important target group for the e-bike industry. They love to ride bicycles, but we can’t ignore the fact that their capacities are smaller than those of their parents. That’s why electric support is so welcome that the bike doesn’t resist them at an early age due to the excessive effort they might require (and later it stays that way for the rest of their lives …).

Now the list of “weak” is coming to an end, but the target groups are far from exhausted. Young people are also very important. They are always available for novelties and e-bikes offer them a wide range of digital support options, from speed analysis to the possibility of tracking, insurance, etc … Without a doubt the pleasure of driving, which makes the slopes much easier to manage it transports them at least twice or even faster with the support of electricity. However, a lot of physical effort has to be invested, and its extent is determined by everyone according to their abilities and ambitions. It is indisputable that we can get to the finish line (or to the well-deserved beer) just as blown away and sweaty as with a “classic” bike, only that we reach this goal much faster. More and more young people no longer see the car as an added value or a necessity, but they want to be mobile, and this must be made possible for them not to buy cars

For all the above target groups, we have limited ourselves to users who use e-bikes for their sports and entertainment activities, and we have not yet touched on the most important target group, ie daily migrants – people who commute to and from work every day. According to research, these represent more than half of the above, often (a study from Belgium) as much as 60 percent or more. Therefore, it is right that we take a closer look at this target group and the benefits of e-mobility, especially for city administrations and larger employers.

An e-bike for the health and environmental footprint of daily migrants

Everyday commuting and after various small chores are the ones that contribute at least 50 percent to air pollution. At the same time, these are also routes that are in a large percentage (on average 40 to 60%) shorter than 10 kilometers, which means that they could be easily mastered by bike. Unfortunately, only a few of us can “afford” to come to work or a meeting sweaty or spend almost an hour on the road.

For these needs, however, e-bikes are perfect. They increase the speed of bridging distances from an average of 15 to 24 km / h, and the average distance traveled from 6.3 to 9.8 kilometers. However, a large part of the way to work and afternoon chores can be included in this scope. The electric bike helps to make these routes much faster and easier, especially considering the fact that a large part of our territory is hilly.

This segment includes another, especially for urban environments and large companies, an important type of electric (and conventional) bicycles, ie freight bicycles. They successfully solve the embarrassment of transporting people and goods within pedestrian areas and are also useful and convenient for transporting goods in factory yards, especially because they do not create any exhaust fumes and can also be used inside buildings. Due to the above, many European countries are on the rise, but in our country, unfortunately, they are almost non-existent.

From the point of view of city administrations, bicycles greatly “make life easier” for city administrations, as they occupy incomparably less valuable urban parking space with zero exhaust pollution. Finally, we must not forget that people who move every day are much healthier and more efficient in their workplace, which benefits both health and social institutions and employers.

Who will share the cake of 3 billion euros in European subsidies?

Of course, the potential of e-bikes has not gone unnoticed by EU governments in their efforts to achieve climate commitments by 2050 and, above all, to mitigate the effects of climate change. A particularly ardent advocate of sustainable mobility is Frans Timmermans, a Dutch politician and diplomat who currently serves as First Vice-President of the European Commission.

He recently presented his messages and orientations in this field to the interested European public at a web conference organized within the European Cycling Federation (ECF). In addition to the ECF leadership, the conference was also attended by eight mayors or representatives of European cities in charge of cycling, including Zoran Jankovič, Mayor of Ljubljana.

For many years, e.g. since the beginning of Zoran Jankovič’s mayoralty, Ljubljana has been promoting cycling and walking, and has invested heavily in both. New cycling connections are constantly being created in accordance with the adopted guidelines.

However, the web conference focused not only on measures under the “regular” cycling infrastructure program, but also on emergency measures introduced under COVID 19. More than 200 European cities, from large to small, introduction of additional measures, such as additional or extended cycle paths, slowing down motor traffic, introduction of car-free areas, widening of sidewalks, etc .. (pop-up) bands, 2323 km were accumulated in all associated cities during the first wave, and an additional 1115 kilometers have already been announced (excluding the appearance of the second wave of COVID). Cycling and walking are increasingly proving to be important “supports” for measures to curb the spread of the epidemic, as they provide sufficient social distance and, on the other hand, strengthen the immune system and resilience.

The European Cycling Federation has considered the introduction of these special “COVID” measures to be so important that it has even developed a special web application on it ( There from we can understand that among the countries that have introduced some of the COVID measures to promote cycling among the population, Romania, Slovakia or even Turkey are covered, but Slovenia is not. Among the associated cities, despite the care and dedication to cycling, we do not find Ljubljana.

As we are currently in the second wave of the epidemic, in which traffic is also slowing down due to its intensity, and as winter is ahead of us, when respiratory diseases are even more prevalent, consideration should be given to measures to alleviate the epidemic. even atmospheric pollution, how well-founded.

However, if I go back to the aforementioned web conference: measures to promote cycling and walking will continue to be financially supported in the EU, with € 650 million for new cycling infrastructure alone and a total of € 3 billion to promote cycling and walking! Therefore, Frans Timmermans called on all participants in the conference to encourage their government structures to take advantage of these incentives. However, the mayors (the question was asked by the Mayor of Ljubljana Jankovič) were also interested in whether the cities can also directly apply for these funds. Timmermans cited the connection and cooperation of European cities as a condition for this, which should identify common problems and find cheaper solutions through system integration.

Concluding remarks

The second wave of the epidemic brought a much higher number of infections than the first. At the same time, there is a growing awareness of the importance of immune resistance in the fight against infections and the harmful effects of highly polluted atmospheres, which significantly weaken the lungs.

During the first wave, Ekoklad helped with the financial support of at least private companies to introduce sustainable mobility measures, and at the end of May it also abolished this. However, the data presented in the article may remind us that we are increasingly on the tail end of Europe in the field of sustainable mobility measures, although both the health situation and the announced European subsidies remind us that we need to do something urgently.