Last Updated on January 3, 2023 by Matt
Thinking of whether a bike or an electric scooter would be a better transport solution for you? This article will help you make a decision based on your needs and your unique situation. Even though the bike is a good choice sometimes, the scooter is a smarter solution overall.
The electric scooter is a more effective mode of transport than the bicycle. The biggest downside of the bike is that you provide the movement at the expense of your own energy. Other advantages of electric scooters over bicycles include better portability, greater speeds, and better maneuverability.
We will now explore the upsides and downsides of both, and see which one makes more sense for your specific scenario and lifestyle.
Electric scooter vs bike
All things considered, nothing beats the holy trifecta of the electric scooter:
- it is immune to traffic jams
- it costs nothing to ride
- it doesn’t tire the rider
Other electric rideables also fit these criteria. But they each have issues that the electric scooter doesn’t.
The most serious contender to the electric scooter doesn’t come from the world of electric rideables. It is a good old tried-and-tested pedal-driven bicycle.
While I still consider the electric scooter to be superior in many regards, I’ve never lost respect for the regular bike. I will always keep one or two at home.
As a very busy person, on the ever-lasting quest of increasing productivity, the tradeoff of energy for small amounts of money is often unacceptable for me. That’s the case for most other professionals as well.
With a bike, however, you are left with a bit more money.
For many people, including a few past versions of me as well, this is a really good deal.
Should I buy a bicycle or an electric scooter?
The electric scooter is a better, more versatile, more efficient transport vehicle than the regular bicycle. In most scenarios, the electric scooter is a much better choice than the bike.
There are only a few use cases where the opposite is true.
When to buy a bicycle over an electric scooter
Even though electric scooter rides are a form of light exercise, anyone who feels like they need more exercise should definitely go for a bike. Burning a few of those extra calories each day will make a big difference over time. The bike is a clear winner for people like that.
Other than that, the bike would be a great choice for a budget under $200.
The electric scooters costing $200 or less are either of lower quality, or designed for children.
Also, anyone with a budget in the $300 – $350 range, who doesn’t wish to get a budget scooter can consider a bike. The $350 bike will not be the best bike in the world by any means, but chances are, it will be at least as useful as the $350 electric scooter.
Finally, while electric scooters with seats and trunks can be excellent choices in certain scenarios, like for students that need a scooter, or for people working in delivery, I believe that the trusted old bicycle can be an even better option in many scenarios, especially when the range of your scooter is limited and not enough for your daily tasks.
When to buy an electric scooter over a bicycle
If you have a bad commute, you should probably get an electric scooter.
If traffic jams are your disease, the electric scooter is your cure.
If you are in a last-mile situation, with long-ish distances between the public transport stations and your destination, the scooter is definitely for you.
If you wish to get from your home to your office or school, and back, for free and without any effort, you should go for an electric scooter.
If you have less space for storing your vehicle, both at home or at the office, the scooter is a clear winner.
Busy, young or middle-age professionals have fallen in love with the electric scooters the most. They are its primary demographic, and there are logical reasons for that.
When to buy both an electric scooter and a bike?
The ideal scenario is owning both an electric scooter and a bike. This is my current scenario, and I believe it is the perfect one.
To be fair, I use the scooter most of the time, especially for daily tasks and routine rides. However, I sometimes crave the bike, especially when I want to throw in a bit of cardio. That’s why I think having both is great.
I suggest investing in a good scooter, as you will likely ride it more, and if your budget is tight you can get a cheap bike that will still do its job.
Is an electric scooter faster than a bike?
Electric scooters can be much faster than bicycles. While budget electric scooters are not capable of great speeds, higher-end scooters can reach top speeds of 50 km/h, or even 100 km/h, which is many times the top speed of the bike.
Is an electric scooter safer than a bicycle?
Traditional bicycles are as about as safe as electric scooters. Bikes have been around for quite a while, riders know how to use them better, and the environment is more accustomed to them as well, so they may seem like they’re safer on the surface. But recent studies have shown that their safety is about the same.
A year ago, a lot of paranoia was being spread about the perceived low safety of electric scooters. However, a recent study by the International Transport Forum has found that electric scooters as safe as bicycles, if not safer. The study found that most fatal accidents with both electric scooters and bicycles involved a car or a motorcycle as well, and that riding under the common speed limits (25 km/h for most countries) decreased the risk of injury greatly.
Electric scooter technology is still in its infancy, and many safety features are still being improved. Riders not wearing helmets and protective gear is the biggest reason for injuries with electric scooters.
Is a bicycle cheaper than an electric scooter?
The average bicycle costs about the same as the average electric scooter, with the bike possibly being about $50 cheaper. Budget bicycles are cheaper than budget scooters, but high-end bicycles can be much more expensive than high-end scooters.
Let’s start with the upsides of the regular bicycle.
We will see that despite all the progress that electric rideables have made, the good ol’ bike still has strong use cases.
Price is probably the most important advantage a regular bicycle will have over an electric scooter. This is also true for any other transportation device as well.
The bike is, on average, the cheapest out of all transport vehicles, although not by a large margin.
It is possible to get a brand new, somewhat decent bike that will serve you for a long time, and not pay over $200.
Granted, at that price, you are pushing your luck a little. But it is possible to hunt down a good deal.
An OK road bicycle, that will not disintegrate in a week, will cost somewhere around $350-$700 (source).
I’ve owned 4 bikes so far. I’ve never paid more than $150 for one.
One of them I outgrew. One got stolen. One broke down several times in two months, so I decided to throw it out. Ironically, this was the most expensive one. One I still own, and occasionally use when not riding my scooter.
Except for the bike I threw out, all my bikes were ok. Nothing special of course. I didn’t win the Tour de France with them.
But they were good enough, and filled my needs perfectly.
Generally, bikes are cheaper by about $50 – $100. You may get a bad deal, nobody’s denying that. But you can certainly get a good bike for very little money.
If you decide to spend a little more, you will drastically reduce the chances of getting a raw deal.
Bikes costing around $700 are already close to higher-end models.
In contrast, the $700 is the mark around which budget prices for scooters end.
Of course, there are bikes out there that are a lot more expensive than that. And I do mean a lot!
Even if we exclude obviously luxury items (which can cost up to 1 million dollars!), there are still a lot of elite bicycles priced between $5000 and $10000.
The most expensive scooters today, in contrast, are between $6000 and $7000. And they are so fast and powerful that it’s almost unreal. An everyday person has no use for them.
But those are only outliers in the scooter world. If we’re talking about regular people, with regular needs and regular budgets, bikes are somewhat cheaper.
You can get a decent bicycle for $250 – $300. You can get a decent electric scooter for $400 – $500.
That’s not a lot of difference, but enough for the bikes to get this point.
An electric scooter is not usable without its electric components. This kind of dependency makes it less robust than a system with fewer complex parts.
For starters, you will always depend on your battery. Without power in it, you will probably have to push your scooter.
Many scooters today have a great range and battery life. But you will always need to think about how much battery you got left.
With a bike you never have to worry about your energy supply (as long as you can move your legs).
In addition, the battery and the other electric components might break down.
No matter how good the quality of electric components get, they will still be electric components. That means they are still vulnerable to defects.
Sure, a bike can break down too.
But its defect will always be mechanical. The defects are almost always solvable, and worth solving.
Since it doesn’t have electrical parts, it is a much more foolproof system.
There’s also the issue of maintenance.
Electric scooters are not difficult to maintain at all. You basically need to make sure everything works properly, especially the battery, motor, and electronic parts. From there on, just don’t let the battery drain fully.
Other than that, you need to make sure the tires are filled, and that the brakes work.
But still, that’s more maintenance than what the bike requires.
Which is almost nothing.
If your chain and gears are ok, your brakes work, and your tires are not deflated, you’re good to go.
That also makes potential repairs much easier and cheaper.
A lot of the times, you will be able to repair your bike yourself. The repair process will include very little tinkering.
That may be the case with your scooter too. But unless you are familiar with electronics, you will need a pro for battery, motor or controller defects.
Last but not least, there’s the issue of water-resistance.
Both bikes and electrical scooters have chassis made out of similar materials. That’s usually aluminum alloy.
While they are durable, they can corrode and get rusty if exposed to too much water.
But the scooter has a vulnerability that the bike doesn’t have. We are talking, of course, about its battery.
Lots of electric scooter manufacturers market their scooters as water-resistant.
Usually, they truly are water-resistant. Countless reports from users online say that electric scooters can be ridden in the rain without issues.
Despite that, manufacturers always warn against riding in the rain or wet conditions.
Even in the user manuals of the most hardcore waterproof scooters, with an IP67 rating and a special protective case for the battery, and all the bells and whistles, you will still see a warning against riding in the rain.
In practice, there may be little real difference. But in theory at least, bike owners have less to fear in the rain than scooter owners.
These three points make bikes more reliable than scooters.
That doesn’t mean that scooters are unreliable. Far from it.
It’s just that a simpler mechanism will always be less prone to error than a complex one. The same way your bicycle is less reliable than walking with your two feet.
No surprises here.
An electric scooter can be ridden like a regular scooter. But it will be a weird, uncomfortable, inefficient ride.
The deck is simply too high off the ground for the scooter to be used this way.
The bike not only gives you a great cardio workout, but it is also one of the world’s favorite sports, hobbies, and workout types.
Many people buy a bike exclusively for the purpose of riding for an exercise. It is one of the best calorie-burning workouts ever.
In the majority of places worldwide, this will not be an issue at all. Bikes and electric scooters will be equal here.
In most cities, you will see bikes and scooters riding side by side, sharing the same lanes.
However, bikes must get the points here.
That’s because I’ve never heard of a bike being illegal somewhere.
Electric scooters are perfectly legal almost everywhere. But they have been somewhat heavily regulated in a few cities. In a handful of places, they are even restricted on public roads altogether.
While scooters will have almost no trouble from a legal point of view in the vast majority of places, bikes will have absolutely none, no matter where you are.
Electric scooter advantages
There’s no denying that bikes still have a lot going for them. Even in this day and age, when they are already a 150-year-old technology, their use is still massive.
But aside from the cheaper price, all their advantages may not mean that much to the majority of people.
Also, when most people buy a bike, they frequently spend similar amounts to the cost of a great scooter.
Which means the cost is not always of critical importance.
The advantages that electric scooters offer are far more important. For many, they are well worth the few extra dollars spent to get them.
Any electric rideable, and scooters especially, will always have productivity as an advantage over human-powered rideables. It will come exactly from the fact that they are not human-powered.
Bikes have always been a great companion to many people.
But they will refuse to move unless you make them so by expending your own energy.
With the electric scooter, you literally just push a button.
This translates to several very important benefits.
First of all, you don’t get tired.
True, in the case where you’re looking for more exercise, this is not a benefit.
But for the very busy professional, that just needs to get from point A to point B, with as little effort as possible, this is a no-go.
For those people (yours truly included), traveling should cost as little energy as possible. That energy will later be used for doing actual work.
Related to that, not getting tired also means not getting sweaty, smelly, and dirty when you finally arrive at your destination.
I remember visiting one former colleague’s office in Amsterdam.
There, riding a bike is as universal as breathing.
He arrived at the office by bike and told me to wait a few minutes. Then he went to take a shower in the bathroom.
Their company had a bathroom built especially for employees to take a shower after riding their bikes to work.
This practice is common in the Netherlands, and also in the Nordic countries where bikes are widely used.
While having a shower at work is great, they were put there for a reason.
Employees arrived at work all sweaty. They felt uncomfortable for the rest of the day. All of that made their productivity suffer drastically.
It’s no wonder. Biking for several kilometers is impossible without breaking a sweat.
In contrast, pressing a button doesn’t require you to expend a lot of effort.
It is possible that standing upright, navigating with the body, and staying alert tire you a bit. But it will not be nearly as close as if you crossed the same distance by cycling.
Unless you are in great shape, cycling for 10 kilometers can get tiring.
Athletes and professional cyclists can go for dozens, and even hundreds of kilometers.
But the regular person trying to get to work is not Lance Armstrong, on steroids, and with the best bike in the world.
With electric scooters, distance is only a matter of battery capacity.
Most scooters today can cover around 30 kilometers on a single charge. Many can go much more. Some are even going into the hundreds.
In the real world, you would rarely travel 20 or more kilometers on a bike or with an electric scooter. Likely you will have a bus or a train ride in between, eating up much of that big distance.
Still, scooters have an advantage here. It the scenario where you would really need that kind of range, scooters are a clear winner.
The chassis in both the bike and the scooter is typically made from aluminum. That makes it very light.
In the scooter, the motor and the battery are the heaviest parts. They account for much of its weight.
In the bike, there is not much more than chassis. The saddle and the chains and the other small parts add some weight. But that’s all there is.
Of course, this will heavily depend on the model, but it is possible that your average electric scooter is a few kilograms heavier than your average bicycle.
The overall volume when folded and the typically low weight is the main reason why electric scooters are portable.
I don’t think an electric scooter exists that is not foldable.
When folded, the scooter becomes this one-meter long rectangle.
Bikes, on the other hand, are rarely foldable.
Some are, and when they are, they might possibly be more portable than scooters.
But since most aren’t, you will always be the person with the bike in the train. You will occupy space for three extra people, and earn the judgment of other passengers.
So, while scooters can be a bit heavier, they are also smaller in size.
They also have less things sticking out, like chains and pedals and handlebars, etc.
Finally, there are no large empty wheels with wires in them, that seem to be a magnet for getting stuff stuck between them.
Just try getting both a scooter and a bike in these three very common places: the bus, the stairs, and the elevator. You will immediately be convinced.
There’s a reason why the phrase “like riding a bike” exists. While it’s easy to remember and do again, you still had to learn how to ride a bike.
For many people, that included the training wheels, and the occasional fall on the ground.
On the other hand, I’ve never met anyone that couldn’t figure out how to ride the scooter in 5 minutes or less.
To someone that has never ridden before, it may seem a lot harder than it is.
It really isn’t. Riding an electric scooter is very easy.
So it’s no surprise that controlling the scooter will come easier too.
Navigating sidewalks teeming with pedestrians is a lot easier when you can swiftly start, accelerate, and stop, without having to turn the pedals.
This one may be closer to a tie than to a point for the scooters. Since we’re not considering adjustments, accessories, and customizations in this comparison, this one will go for the scooter.
Both vehicles are not practical for carrying extra items, like shopping or grocery bags.
Out of the box, it’s simpler to attach the bag to the front stem on the scooter, than trying awkwardly to balance your bag on your bike handlebar.
Usually, on a bike, you will keep kicking the bag with your knees. Or worse, you will have to keep it in one of your hands or attached to the handles.
No scooter brand will recommend you ride with extra bags. But it is certainly simpler than riding with bags on a bike.
However, the bike offers a somewhat simple solution to this issue.
It comes in the form of a basket installed either at the center of the handlebar, or in a frame above the rear wheel.
With these adjustments, the bike is suddenly a lot better than the scooter for carrying stuff around.
The thing is, most bikes come without these installments. You will either have to pay extra for them, or figure out a way to do them yourself.
Electric scooters also offer similar customizations.
They typically go at the front of the stem, usually something like a case you can fill. Some users also put baskets above the rear fender as well.
Typically, they will be somewhat smaller than the bike baskets. But they can still get the job done sometimes.
I place speed further down the list, as a less important factor. That’s because usually, speed will not be an issue for your everyday travel.
With both the bike and the electric scooter, you will rarely, if ever, develop speeds over 35 km/h.
In case you want to, however, the scooter will be able to develop much faster speeds.
You can go pretty fast on a bike too. But you will need to do some heavy-duty cycling.
The average budget scooter is not really fast. However, there are scooters even in the mid-price range that can easily reach speeds of over 60 km/h.
This is not as critical as other points here, but it is still something you may want to think about.
To the casual observer, this is almost a no-brainer.
Electric scooters need electricity to run. While electricity is very very cheap, it still costs a few cents per full charge.
Bikes, on the other hand, cost literally nothing to ride. Right?
Well, I invite you to get a little nerdy here. Think about this from a more scientific perspective.
Bikes still need energy to move (everything does).
There is no battery, so the energy must come from you.
And you get your energy from the food you eat, which is certainly not free.
In fact, an hour of biking will cost you about 600 – 700 calories. That is the number of calories in one medium or medium-small meal.
No matter where you eat, and how good your budgeting and cooking and shopping skills are, your meal always costs more than a few cents.
If you burn your energy for cycling, you will either have less productivity (possibly lose money because of it), or eat more (costs more money).
Granted, the modern human has exactly the opposite problem. We have large surpluses of calories and we need to burn them somehow.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the bike ride takes the energy from your food. Which is far more expensive than the energy from electricity.
So if we’re really going into the depth of the matter here, electric scooters actually cost less to ride than a bike.