As electric-assist bicycles (e-bikes) have become more popular in this country, a divide has developed between those who support their use, and those who view them as something other than “real” bikes. Some have even gone so far as to suggest they be totally banned. The reasons behind the negative reaction to e-bikes range from their potential incompatibility with traditional bicycles in bike lanes and on multi-use paths, to the mis-placed belief that electric-assist is somehow “cheating”.
In our view, e-bikes are all about accessibility, which is perfectly in line with our mission of getting people out of their cars and onto bikes. There are many reasons why a person might choose to ride an electric-assist bike. A few examples include a physical limitation or medical reason; to avoid perspiring in work or dress clothes; to overcome impossibly difficult terrain; or, to reduce the commute time of an unusually long commute. We see these as valid reasons, and if they get someone out of a car and onto a smaller, less environmentally impacting vehicle (perhaps someone who would otherwise not be on a bike), then we fully support their use. We view e-bikes as enabling and inclusive, and we certainly don’t see them as “cheating”.
Because they’re just now becoming popular in this country, where e-bikes will fit within the already confusing mix of road and trail users is yet to be seen. We’ll have to work out the details of where they’re allowed, what types of limitations should be put on maximum speed and power, and so forth. These are difficult questions, but they can be answered, and surely we can find a place for e-bike riders among other road users.
At one point we mentioned providing more e-bike coverage, but as we looked into the dizzying array of models on the market, we decided to leave it to the specialists. Fortunately, Peter Eland over at VeloVision has launched a second magazine devoted solely to e-bikes called Electric Bike Magazine. If it ends up being anything like VV, it will be the source of information for all things related to electric-assist bicycles.