E-Bikes and Accessibility – An Argument for Electric Assist


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.

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.

Electric Bike Magazine
E-Bikes in the NYT

A Room with a View

Thursday Evening Commute

Last night’s commute. You can’t experience this from behind the wheel of a car.

WSJ: A Beginner’s Bike Shopping Experience

WSJ Screenshot

In an article on the Wall Street Journal website, Jane Hodges describes her experiences as a beginner shopping for a bike at a number of large retailers in the Seattle area. I found it an interesting look into how a large majority of non-enthusiasts probably experience the bike purchasing process.

A couple of things in the article jumped out at me. One, it’s highly unlikely a beginner can discern much about a bike in a 10-minute test ride. This leads me to believe it’s important for beginners to understand the shop’s return policies in case they end up with the wrong bicycle.

Secondly, unless they have a friend who knows bicycles and can help them through the process, beginners are pretty much at the mercy of the salespeople in the stores they visit. This places the onus on shop employees to ask a lot of questions and listen carefully to what their customers are telling them, because as we all know, riding a bike that’s inappropriately matched to how it’s used is a major deterrent to long-term bicycling.

Read the article

Gallery: Andy Church’s ’74 Raleigh and ’66 Schwinn

Raleigh International

[Andy Church sent in these photos of his beautifully restored all-rounders. —ed.]

I recently built up this pair of vintage steel frames to use as utility all-rounders. One is a refinished 1974 Raleigh International, the other is a 1966 Schwinn Super Sport, and I ride one or the other nearly every day to get around town and to transport groceries home from the market, saving my car and gas for longer trips out of town. (In theory one bike is assigned to a weekend property in Rhode Island, but in practice I can’t stand to leave it there, so I transport it back and forth when I make the trip.)

Because of the wealth of wonderful resources made available online by so many avid enthusiasts I was able to learn to build these bikes in a single summer. I can’t stress enough how meaningful it has been to rediscover the classic steel frame and to integrate bicycling back into my daily life.

Andy Church
Rowayton, CT

Raleigh International

1974 Raleigh International

  • Bronze Green 23.5″ Frame
  • Painted by Keith Anderson
  • Velocity Dyad 622mm rims
  • Laced by Rich Lesnik onto
  • Shimano Ultegra Hubs using
  • DTSwiss double butted steel spokes
  • Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 700×32 tires
  • Sugino Alpina Velo Orange crankset 34/48
  • Velo Orange Grand Cru BB 110mm
  • Shimano 6600 front and rear derailleurs
  • Shimano Ultegra CS-6500 9-sp freehub cassette 12/25
  • Shimano Ultegra CN-HG93 chain
  • Paul Comp Racer centerpull brakes
  • Shimano ST-6500 shifter brake levers
  • Nitto Technomic stem 100mm
  • Nitto 177 Noodle handlebar
  • Velo Orange Grand Cru headset
  • Huret STI cable stop clamp
  • Campagnolo down tube shifter cable guide
  • Velo Orange Setback seatpost
  • Brooks B17 saddle & tape
  • Peter White Urban Platform pedals
  • Brooks clips & straps, or
  • Speedplay Frog clipless pedals
Schwinn SS

1966 Schwinn Super Sport

  • Sky Blue 22″
  • Original frame, fork, shifters, and headset
  • Sun M13II 27″ rims laced by Rich Lesnik to 1970’s Campagnolo High Flange 36-hole hubs using DTSwiss double-butted stainless spokes
  • Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 27 x 1 1/4″ tires
  • Sugino Alpina VO crankset, 34/48
  • Shimano RD-6200 FD
  • Shimano RD-6600 RD
  • SRAM PC870 chain
  • IRD Defiant freewheel cassette,12/24
  • MKS Sylvan pedals & clips
  • Nitto Technomic 120mm stem
  • Nitto 185 “Mark’s” drop handlebar 44cm
  • Tektro R200 aero levers
  • Dia-Compe Gran Compe centerpull brakes
  • 1970’s Campagnolo Seatpost
  • Brooks B17 Imperial saddle
  • Nitto-R15 rear rack
  • Giles Berthoud panniers and saddle bag
Schwinn SS

E-Bike Bikeshare Trial at Cal/EPA


Cal/EPA, in conjunction with BionX, Ecotron, and the City of Sacramento, is conducting a 4-week trial to test a bikesharing program at the Cal/EPA headquarters in Sacramento, CA. The BionX equipped e-bikes used in the program will be available at no charge to Cal/EPA employees for commuting and local transportation over the duration of the trial.

From the press release:

The BionX-equipped systems installed on the bikes in the stations provide riders with a variable power boost of up to 300 percent of their own energy, helping riders tame any hill and making even riding back with a full load of groceries manageable. With features like a thumb -operated throttle for quick accelerations, motor braking for added safety, quick stopping and energy mode regeneration, and a motor locking mechanism for theft prevention, the BionX system is the leading one of its kind in the world.

Project partner Ecotron, Systems Inc. will manufacture the innovative infrastructure for the bike stations. Their proven bike docking systems have been tested to withstand 50,000 bike movements and include a host of features like trip logging, intuitive controls, collision-resistant design and hoardings replacable with advertising and corporate colors.

“We are thankful that Cal/EPA and the City of Sacramento, supported by the Governors office, have allowed us to use the Cal/EPA facilities to test this exciting program. It’s a completely new model for employee, client and visitor bike and e-bike sharing programs on work or educational campuses, and at hotels, tourist destinations and police stations,” said Vincent Lamoureux, Magna Marque (BionX) Global Sales and Marketing Director.

Danny MacAskill’s Way Back Home

A little off-topic, but who doesn’t love Danny MacAskill? Mesmerizing…

The Ultimate Urban Vehicle


Folding bikes are perhaps the ultimate urban vehicles. Consider the following:

  • Zero emissions
  • Compatible with public transit
  • Nimble
  • Compact
  • Lightweight

The Brompton is perhaps my favorite folding bike. Consider the following:

  • Compact & clean fold
  • Easy to carry
  • Rugged
  • Quick
  • Quintessentially British

Look for a full review on this amazing tool within the next week or so.

© 2011 EcoVelo™