HEaLth IMpact Of E-bikes And E-scooTers: Baseline Data Collection

Project Details


Regular physical activity contributes to the prevention of a range of chronic diseases and reductions in all-cause mortality. Increased active travel has been associated with an increase in overall physical activity levels, without compensatory reductions in recreational physical activity. While e-bikes are a form of active travel, e-scooters are not. E-scooters, may, however influence active travel behaviour and therefore overall physical activity level.

In the UK, e-bikes are legal and considered bicycles in the eyes of the law. E-scooters, unless part of a government pilot scheme, are considered illegal and are classed as motor vehicles. The government are yet to decide on legalising privately owned e-scooters. The government have extended e-scooter hire schemes multiple times, citing the need for more information.

During the autumn of 2023, Bristol will be adding e-bikes to their government approved e-scooter hire scheme, and Leeds will be introducing an e-bike only hire scheme. The purpose of this project is to collect BASELINE data to inform a future full evaluation of these e-bike and/or e-scooter hire schemes. We have five research questions:

1.What is the self-reported baseline physical activity level of residents in each study area?

2.What are the self-reported baseline modes of travel used by residents in each area?

3.What should be included in a qualitative interview for the full evaluation?

4.Should any adjustments be made to the survey questionnaire prior to full evaluation?

5.What are the most cost effective and most effective overall methods for boosting the sample from harder to reach groups?

If we secure funding to collect baseline data, we plan to then apply for funding for a full evaluation. The overall goal of which would be to understand the impact of e-bike and/or e-scooter hire schemes on public health, social, economic, and environmental factors.

During this baseline project we will conduct surveys in four UK cities during the summer of 2023; Bristol and Leeds (intervention sites) and Sheffield and Bradford (control sites). Our primary distribution method will be to work with our local authority collaborators to distribute advertising materials and a link to our survey through local authority owned newsletters and mailing lists. This should include a reach of at least 40,000. We will also use secondary routes and incentives to boost participation and response rate. Our primary outcome will be overall physical activity. We are also interested in understanding the frequency of use of different travel modes. If funding is later secured for a full evaluation, we plan to re-run the survey a year after the implementation of the hire schemes to assess changes in overall physical activity and other factors.

We will also conduct interviews to understand attitudes towards e-bike and e-scooter hire schemes and if they have changed how people travel. These interviews will also probe for any necessary improvements to the survey and will inform the interview schedule for a full evaluation.

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) has been considered throughout the design of this study. We have also planned for PPI input and representation throughout this project.

By the end of this grant, we will produce a cleaned baseline dataset for use in a future full evaluation. We will also provide a brief report on our findings to local authorities and the funder, and we will produce a draft mixed methods manuscript.

Layman's description

Physical activity is important for physical and mental health. Walking or cycling between places is one way to be physically active. E-bikes are pedal bikes which have a battery to help make cycling a bit easier, especially on hills. Using e-bikes could be a good option to increase physical activity but we are not sure. E-scooters run on batteries meaning you don’t have to push them. E-scooters may decrease physical activity if people use them instead of walking.

The government is currently unsure about whether to legalise the private use of e-scooters. The government has been testing e-scooters in some parts of the UK since 2020. People can pay to use them for trips within each area. While certain types of e-bikes are currently legal in the UK, they can be expensive to buy and tricky to store at home. Being able to pay to use them only when they are needed may encourage more use.

We do not know if people’s travel choices might change when they have e-bike and e-scooter hire schemes available, and we need to collect evidence of this to inform the Government. For example, do people who would have previously driven choose to take an e-bike or e-scooter instead? Do people who would have previously walked, choose to take an e-scooter instead? Changes in how people choose to travel could therefore impact their overall physical activity levels.

We will conduct a survey in four UK cities during the summer of 2023. Two of the cities will be introducing schemes in the autumn that allow the public to pay to use e-bikes and/or e-scooters. Two will not have these types of schemes. This initial project will ask survey questions. We will send a link to the survey to at least 40,000 people across the different cities. We will ask about how much physical activity people do. We will also ask questions that will help us understand how people get between places. For example, cycling, walking, scooting, driving, or using public transport. We plan to ask the same questions later when the e-bike and e-scooter hire schemes have started. We can then look to see if physical activity levels have changed. We can also check if use of e-bikes and e-scooters has changed.

We will interview people to understand how they feel about these types of e-bike and e-scooter hire schemes and if they have changed how they travel. We also want to ask how easy the survey is to read and if it could be improved.

We have worked with members of the public and councils to design this study. We plan to continue working with these groups during the project.
Effective start/end date1/08/2331/01/24


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