The Great E-bike Debate

Photo from the European Cyclist Federation

In the search for an alternative means of transportation, many commuters may find the E-bike quite promising.  While the initial cost of an E-bike can be expensive, prices ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, in the long run, they have the ability to serve as a more affordable means of transportation than a car. Unlike most cars, E-bikes are battery-operated. Without the worry of paying for gas, and having the ability to park at a bike rack, riders save in multiple ways.

Photo by European Cyclist Federation

Over the last couple of years, the E-bike market has increased drastically, and many claim that they are the bike of the future. According to Evelo, one of the top manufacturers of electric bicycles, E-bikes are establishing themselves as “a hugely popular, effective, and important mode of transportation in countries around the world.”

While the popularity of E-bikes is continuing to grow, there has been a lot of talk as to how they match up to traditional bikes.

Let’s take a look at some of the topics being discussed:

The Health Discussion:

When it comes to the E-bike vs. traditional bike debate, one common area of conversation is the topic of health. Many argue that the motor assisted pedaling that comes along with E-bikes defeats the entire purpose of riding a bike. There are those that say if a cyclist is being helped as they peddle, what work are they actually doing?

In response to that question, there are those that argue that E-bikes offer just as many health benefits as traditional bikes. According to an article from the New York Times, while E-bikes may offer less of a work out than a non-motorized bike, research has shown that riding E-bikes still offer health benefits. Assisted pedaling can actually help create a smoother transition for new riders making that switch from car to bike.

The Safety Discussion:

Like myself, many cyclists are hesitant to hop on an e-bike for safety reasons. Exactly how safe are these motorized bikes to ride? Just last year we had to worry about those electric “hoverboards” catching on fire, will these do the same? Will we have control over the braking system even though the bike is electrically powered? What if the system malfunctions?  

In response to these questions, many E-bike advocates argue that E-bikes are just as safe if not safer than traditional bikes. NYCE Wheel, an electric bike shop in New York City, states that advantages such as speed monitoring, extra suspension, heavier weight, and bigger frames make e-bike riders less likely to get into an accident than traditional bike riders. They argue that E-bikes actually have the potential to solve many of the safety problems that arise with non-motorized bikes.

The Legality  Discussion:

Many cyclists, lawmakers, and even police officers are in a constant debate over whether or not e-bikes should even be classified as bicycles. According to federal law, an electric bicycle with a set speed under 20 miles has the ability to be sold as a “bike”. So for the most part, E-bikes are granted many of the same privileges as bikes.

E-bike riders can ride in bikes lanes and are allowed on bike trails. Riders do not need to have a special license or worry about registration; but is that right? In making the bike battery-operated, doesn’t that change it into something different?  Many individuals are making the argument that allowing E-bikes to power alongside traditional bicycles is creating risks for all riders and that there needs to be certain rules and regulations set forth for all E-bike riders to follow.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to the preference of the rider.  Every rider is different. There are some the E-bike may work for, and others it will not. Now, as to whether or not the E-bike will be the bike of the future, that is a different story. I would say that it is still a little too early to make that decision. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


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