E-Bikes in the NYT

The New York Times recently published an article on the electric bike phenomenon. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, e-bikes are spreading like wildfire and they’re here to stay.

Read the article

13 Responses to “E-Bikes in the NYT”

  • Tali says:

    I think it says something that the electric bicycle market has taken off with little or no government assistance and brings to market products that the average middle class person can buy without taking out a huge loan, as most would to buy the GM Volt, etc, that I’ve heard will sell for $US40,000.

    As for safety concerns, it seems that regulations along the lines:
    * eBIkes must cut all power assist once a speed of 20mph is reached (perhaps 15mph for upright trikes)
    * Maximum weight of cycle must not exceed say 60lbs,
    * cycle must perform well as a pedal cycle without any power assistance.

    Simple rules like that should ensure these vehicles keep the basic character of a bicycle while allowing room for inovation.

  • Andrew says:

    I find it difficult to be really opposed to them. Sure they’re not for purists, but if it gets more people on bikes, I’m all for it. There’s safety in numbers, and we need volume for real advocacy. Most parts of North America are simply too sprawled out to have the same kind of bicycle adoption as in Europe, and if eBikes mean that the average suburban Joe can enjoy a bicycle commute without being in prime shape, I’m all for it.

  • doug in seattle. says:

    I know my girlfriend would be more willing to ride bikes around town with me if she had an electrobike.

    I think it’s a fact that most people are unwilling to work hard for their transportation.

  • Crosius says:

    The only issue I have with current electric bikes it that the price a fairly unimpressive electric bike sells for around here would buy a very nice non-electric bike.

    I’m not a hardcore cyclist, but if I have to spend the money anyway, I’d rather spend it on ride quality than power assisted pedals.

  • Lyle says:

    Not long ago I was talking to an elderly gentleman at the bike rack at Trader Joe’s. He bought his e-bike because he’s no longer able to ride the distances he used to and missed riding terribly.

    Just like steel framed bikes are a niche market, so are e-bikes. I really can’t imagine most 20 somethings would be interested but there are a lot of middle aged and older riders who just can’t do what they once did.

    I’ll admit, when I first saw one, I was somewhat scornful but, hey, we all have different abilities and different needs and it’s great that so many bicycle options are available.


  • AfroRider says:

    Who do you take the bike to when it needs to be repaired?

  • David says:

    There’s not much to repair. The motor has one moving part. The batteries and charger are solid state. The rest of the components are from existing bike and/or scooter designs, depending on the particular model, that any bike or scooter shop can handle. If you do your own work on your current bike, you can almost certainly work on these yourselves.

  • Bill says:

    I’ve seen it asserted that the electricity used to power an e-bike represents a lower total energy input than does growing and transporting the food to fuel a cyclist to travel the same distance. No telling whether the difference would be enough to offset the extra energy used to make, maintain and recycle the e-bike vs a standard bike (i.e. full life cycle energy usage).

    E-bikes fall into a funny place, too fast for a bike lane, too slow for traffic, extended mobility for some, too range limited for others. I think we need to see a clear division between electric assisted bicycles (which I’d see as limited to something well under 20 MPH for compatibility with normal cycling speeds) and electric motorcycles capable of keeping up with real-world traffic over significant distances (which on my commute to work would mean a 50 mph cruising speed with headlights on for 30 + miles on a charge).

  • Lyle says:

    @ Bill

    It’s easy to think only in terms of energy. However as with any equation involving humans, there are way more issues involved.

    One less car on the roads = that much less traffic = that much less asphalt to be laid and maintained.

    The energy a cyclist expands is also a simplistic way of looking at it. Generally speaking, the more exercise a person gets, the fewer health problems which means a lower burden on the health care system.

    There’s also the not so quantifiable fact that many people get a great deal of enjoyment in riding their bicycles, that may in fact lead to less mental illness.

    To fit into the American system, e-bikes, as others have already said, should be limited to 20 mph. Any faster and they’re a hazard on the bike path.


  • Frits B says:

    An example from the real world (well, Holland): I have two sisters, one 68, the other 58. The 68 year old owns a bike for short trips and a small car for long trips or heavy loads. She recently moved to a hillier part of the country than she was used to so she decided she needed a bit of extra push. The 58 year old has had a hip replacement and is a diabetic so somewhat overweight. No car but 3 bikes as she does all her personal transport by bike. She too decided that some help was needed, so they both bought an e-bike last year. The usual step-through design, with the motor in the front wheel where it replaces the generator (the lights now get their power from the battery) and a gear hub in the rear wheel. The battery is a flat pack under the rear carrier; it is easily removed for charging inside. With panniers on the bikes, no one notices that these are e-bikes as the ladies still have to pedal. Price is reasonable too: about 1,700 euros, or some 2,000 dollars. Batteries reportedly last about 3 years and cost 400 euros. What’s to grumble if it keeps them happy and active?

    You might have a look at Koga-Miyata’s website (www.koga.com). Sporty bikes, expensive too, but the company now offers electrification on almost the entire range. Not in the US yet, but see their offerings in Britain under “Electric”. Unobtrusive but efficient.

  • Anthony King says:

    I’m don’t think anyone on an electric bike will put me in a casket or in the hospital. They won’t wake me up at night, and I won’t be telling my kids not to play in the front yard because of speeding electric bikes on my street. I won’t be riding one myself, but bring ‘em on.

  • Charlie Richman says:

    Yes, as the cost of lighter-weight lithium batteries drops (largely due to the electric car frenzy) and the number of active older people grows, it seems inevitable that ebikes will grow more popular over time.

    Plus, they’re fun to ride and very practical tools for extending car-free commutes.

    Interested? Please join the growing electric cycling community at http://ElectricCyclist.com.

  • Joseph E says:

    I think that electric bikes are a great idea, if we keep them from being electric motorcycles.

    Motorcyles are dangerous due to they high speeds they reach on 2 wheels. You need to be able to take a tumble on a bike without being seriously injured.

    I would vote to limit e-bikes to 15 mph assist. You don’t need to ride faster than that up a hill. 20 mph is well below the speed of traffic on most arterial streets (sadly), so an extra 5 mph would not help much with keeping up in traffic. But 15 to 20 mph is a double the kinetic energy, since energy goes up by the square of speed. A 60 lb e-bike + 240 lb man running into a pedestrian at 15 mph will result in scrapes and bruises. At 20 mph there could be serious injury.

    Of course, I think cars should be auto-limited to 15 mph on city streets as well!

    Perhaps e-bikes could go faster on highways, but not on bike paths, bike lanes or city streets.

    With bikes available $300 from Wal-mart (http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=5391437) (that one only goes 15 mph, due to a cheap and heavy design), e-bikes could be a great transportation option for many.

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