Journal of Transport and Land Use (Apr 2021)

To e-bike or not to e-bike? A study of the impact of the built environment on commute mode choice in a small Chinese city

  • Yang Hu,
  • Anae Sobhani,
  • Dick Ettema

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14, no. 1


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The use of electric bikes (e-bikes) is attracting increasing attention from researchers and policymakers as a way to promote sustainable transportation. However, knowledge about the built environment factors that influence e-bike use is lacking. In China, most evidence on e-bikes and travel behavior stems from big cities; there is much less evidence concerning small cities and their adjacent rural areas. Using travel data collected in a small Chinese city (Ganyu), the present research explores the impact of the built environment around residential and work locations on individuals’ commute mode choice, with a particular focus on e-bike use. Consistent with the few previous studies on travel behavior in small Chinese cities, we find that most residents of Ganyu commute only short distances and that the e-bike is the primary mode for their daily commutes. The results of a nested logit model show that e-bike use is more popular among females and low-income groups, and that certain built environment characteristics at the work location promote e-bike use. Moreover, the built environment in different geographical contexts has different influences on commute mode choice. In particular, the presence of city/town roads without bike lanes at work locations promotes e-bike use among rural residents but much less so among urban residents.