Outputs – Smart e-bikes research project

Smart e-bikes research project

understanding how commuters and communities engage with electrically-assisted cycling


High uptake, GPS use data, impact on health and smart cities – these are some of the key results published in journal articles, conference papers, and policy outputs.


Cairns, S, F Behrendt, D Raffo, C Beaumont, and C Kiefer. 2017. “Electrically-Assisted Bikes : Potential Impacts on Travel Behaviour.” Transportation Research Part A 103: 327–42. doi:10.1016/j.tra.2017.03.007. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965856415301865

Abstract: This paper reports on a review of the European literature about the impacts of having an electrically-assisted bike available to use, together with results from a trial in the UK city of Brighton, where 80 employees were loaned an electrically-assisted bike for a 6–8 week period. In the Brighton trial, three-quarters of those who were loaned an e-bike used them at least once a week. Across the sample as a whole, average usage was in the order of 15– 20 miles per week, and was accompanied by an overall reduction in car mileage of 20%. At the end of the trial, 38% participants expected to cycle more in the future, and at least 70% said that they would like to have an e-bike available for use in the future, and would cycle more if this was the case. This is consistent with the results of the European literature which shows that when e-bikes are made available, they get used; that a proportion of e-bike trips typically substitutes for car use; and that many people who take part in trials become interested in future e-bike use, or cycling more generally.

Keywords: Pedelec, Electrically-assisted bicycle, Cycling, e-Bike, Electric mobility, Sustainable transport

Behrendt, Frauke. 2017. “Why Cycling Matters for Electric Mobility : Towards Diverse , Active and Sustainable E-Mobilities.” Mobilities, July:1-18. doi:10.1080/17450101.2017.1335463. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17450101.2017.1335463

Abstract: This paper proposes the concept of e-velomobility. E-velomobility covers practices, systems and technologies of electrically-assisted cycling where velomobility’s pedal-power combines with e-mobility’s battery/motor assistance to propel the rider. The concept draws on research and policies around e-mobility, velomobility and e-bikes. Results of an analysis of qualitative material from a UK trial of e-bikes illustrate how e-velomobility is experienced. The empirical material and the conceptual approach show e-velomobility as a distinct and important form of mobility with implications for research agendas and e-mobility policy. E-velomobility and the more diverse understanding of e-mobility suggested in this paper could support a shift of strategies and policies towards more active and sustainable as well as less expensive modes of e-mobility than the current focus on electric cars.

Keywords: E-mobility; electrically- assisted bicycle; cycling; sustainable transport; policy

Behrendt, Frauke. 2016. “Why Cycling Matters for Smart Cities . Internet of Bicycles for Intelligent Transport.” Journal of Transport Geography 56: 156–64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2016.08.018. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966692316300746

Abstract: This article develops the concept of “smart velomobility” that is concerned with networked practices, systems and technologies of cycling. The concept draws on velomobility, Smart Mobility/Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), Smart Cities and the Internet of Things (IoT). The article presents results froman empirical study, where 80 riders of a networked fleet of e-bikes discuss their experience of smart velomobility. The results show how digital and physical mobilities merge, the way riders of the networked fleet interact with the data, how they share the data and how they feel tracked (privacy). The conclusion sketches out future research of “smart velomobilities” and also points out the policy and innovation potential of cycling as active, sustainable and networkedmode of transport in the context of Smart Cities and the Internet of Things.

Keywords: Smart Cities, Cycling, Sustainable Transport, Mobility, Intelligent Transport, Internet of Things

Kiefer C, Behrendt F (2015) Smart E-Bike Monitoring System: realtime open-source and open hardware GPS, assistance and sensor data for electrically-assisted bicycles. Journal IET Intelligent Transport Systems: 1-10. Pdf

Abstract: The smart e-bike monitoring system (SEMS) is a platform for the real-time acquisition of usage data from electrically-assisted bikes (also called pedelecs or e-bikes). It is autonomous (runs off the bike battery), replicable (open source and open hardware), scalable (different fleet sizes) and modular (sensors can be added), so it can be used for further research and development. The system monitors location (global positioning system), rider control data (level of assistance) and other custom sensor input in real time. The SEMS data feeds an online interface for data analysis, for riders to view their own data and for sharing on social media. The basic system can be replicated by other researchers and can be extended with modules to explore various issues in e-bike research. The source code and hardware design are publicly available, under the General Public License, for non-commercial use. SEMS was implemented on 30 bikes and collected data during 10 months of real-word trials in the UK. This study details the design and implementation of the hardware and software, discusses the system use and explores features for future design iterations. The SEMS turns singular e-bikes into a networked fleet and is an example of the internet of things in the cycling context.

Cairns S, Behrendt F, Raffo D and Harmer C (2015) Electrically-assisted bikes: understanding the health potential. Journal of Transport & Health. Volume 2, Issue 2, Supplement: 17.


Background: Electrically-assisted bikes (shortened here to ‘e-bikes’), which require the user to pedal but have a motor that the user can choose to use to reduce the effort required, are becoming increasingly popular. There are estimated to be over a million such bikes in use across Europe. Various studies suggest the effort required to use them constitutes at least ‘moderate’ physical activity, with potential health benefits for those who increase their physical activity by using them.

Methods: This research included survey work with two major employers in Brighton, and two years of monitored trials, where 80 employees were loaned an e-bike (with an associated support package). Trial participants were advised to use the bikes as much, or as little, as they wished.

Results: Initial workplace surveys revealed high levels of interest, with about 40% of those replying being keen to participate in the trials. This included interest from groups which are traditionally less likely to cycle, as assessed using Chi-square tests of independence on both our evidence and National Travel Survey data. Nearly half the respondents who classified themselves as doing less than 30 min of physical activity (moderate or vigorous) per week asked to be part of the trial. Of all respondents who asked to be part of the trial, 42% had a BMI indicating that they were overweight or obese.

For the 80 participants who borrowed bikes, three-quarters chose to use them at least once a week during their 6-8 week trial period. Across all participants, the average mileage cycled was 15-20 miles per week; car mileage was reduced by 20%; and 59% reported that their overall physical activity increased (including 29 of the 43 participants who reported doing less than 2.5 h weekly physical activity before the trial). At the end of the trial, 73% said they would cycle to work at least one day a week ‘if they had an e-bike available to use’.

Conclusions: The study indicated that e-bikes can stimulate interest in cycling amongst people who are typically less likely to do so. Furthermore, when an e-bike is made available, many people choose to use it, and it has substantial effects on their travel behaviour. As such, these bikes could help to encourage active travel amongst groups who traditionally undertake less exercise, or who feel unable to use a conventional bike, either due to personal physical limitations, or because of the geography of where they live.

Conference Presentations

Cairns, S, Behrendt, F, Raffo, D (2015) Electrically-assisted bikes: understanding the health potential, International Conference on Transport & Health, London

Behrendt (2015) ‘E-Bikes as Internet of Things – Smart E-Velomobility?’, Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University

Behrendt F (2015) Smart E-Bikes. Moving Behaviours: Designing City Connections, Future Cities Catapult, London. 15 June 2015.

Cairns S (2015) ‘Smart e-bikes’. Pecha Kucha presentation and workshop at the ‘Moving Behaviours: Connecting Travel’ workshop, Transport Systems Catapult, Milton Keynes, 23 June 2015

Cairns S (2014) Electrically-assisted bikes: part of the toolkit for mainstreaming cycling? Cycle City Leeds, 2nd May 2014

Behrendt (2014) ‘Smart e-Bikes’, Urban Governance Futures: Scenarios for London, Foresight Seminar by LSE Cities and MacArthur Foundation

Behrendt (2014) ‘A fleet of smart e-bikes in Brighton’ at RE.WORK Cities Summit ‘Combining entrepreneurship, technology & science to re-work cities for the future’, London.

Cairns S (2013) Smart e-bikes – trials in Brighton. Cycle City Birmingham, 26th April 2013.

Behrendt (2013) ‘A Humanities Approach to Understanding Sonic Interaction Design for Physical Activity: The Sound of Running & Cycling Apps’, Sonic Interaction Design Symposium, ETH, Zurich.

Behrendt (2013) Smart e-bikes, Eco Technology Show, Brighton

Behrendt (2013) ‘Making Cycling Sound(s)’ at the European Sound Studies Conference (ESSA), Berlin.

Behrendt (2013) ‘Smart e-bikes as Digital Networks Scenario of Future Mobilities‘ at the ‘Mobility Futures’ conference at the Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University.

Cairns S, Behrendt F, Raffo D, Harmer C and Kiefer C (2013) Electrically-assisted bikes: a way of mainstreaming cycling to work?. Velo City 2013, Vienna

Behrendt (2013) ‘The Sound of Cycling – The Politics of Performing Bicycles, Bodies and Cities through Sound’ at the Velo-city Conference in Vienna.

Behrendt (2012) ‘Electric-bikes – smart, networked, sustainable?’ at Urban Age ‘Electric City’ Conference, LSE, London.

Behrendt (2012) ‘Sharing cycle rides on smartphones and city streets’ at European Communications Conference (ECREA), Istanbul.

Behrendt F, Cairns S, Raffo D and Kiefer C (2012) ‘Smart e-bikes: understanding how commuters and communities engage with electrically-assisted cycling‘ at the World Cycling Research Forum, Enschede, Netherlands.

Behrendt (2012) ‘Media Cycling’ at The Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA) Conference, University of Bedfordshire, UK.

Behrendt (2012) ‘Mobile and Sonic Architectures’ at the EU Network of Excellence in Internet Science workshop ‘Thinking Architecturally’, University of Cambridge.