Photo by Magda Sierzputowska
M59 In Tandem - e-bikesMomentum Mag publishers Mia Kohout (left) and Tania Lo.
Will we see an e-bike boom in the near future?
There are currently too many barriers to entry and there is too much resistance from the general public for e-bikes to truly impact our transportation choices. A lot of manufacturers have yet to offer reliable, functional and practical e-bikes for transportation. The bike industry and shops are reluctant to spend the time and money required to develop this market. And current laws have flooded the market with lumbering electric scooters that should not be classified as electric-assist bicycles resulting in bans from some bikeways.
Do we want e-bikes to rise in popularity?
In a word, yes. Since many e-bike purchasers are not regular riders, e-bikes can be enabling tools that get more of the general population relying less on cars. E-bikes help make longer distances feel shorter, make hills less of a barrier, attract older people who may lack the strength and stamina to ride a regular bike and aid those carrying heavy loads. E-bikes used for transportation allow you to always dress for the destination and arrive refreshed and ready to go, no matter the distance or terrain.
How do we get more people interested in e-bikes?
We must raise awareness and understanding of e-bikes and their use. North America is attempting to regulate e-bikes with prohibitive laws before understanding what the product is and how it works. Excluding electric-assist bikes from bike lanes and paths can be compared to limiting wheelchair access as it denies access to personal mobility.
We need to accept e-bikes as part of our modern transportation system. Current attitudes marginalize and exclude e-bikes from important transportation discussions. E-bikes can be instrumental for introducing sustainable transportation options in hilly or spread out areas. We need to focus on these benefits and accept a potentially new ally in the push for a less car-dependent population.
We must separate electric-assist bicycles from scooters. Heavy electric scooters that are impossible to pedal should not be labeled as electric-assist bicycles. Establishing these differences can help the general population and lawmakers decide on efficient ways to regulate these distinct vehicles.
We need increased availability. E-bikes can attract new customers to bike shops that are willing to learn how to service, sell and embrace this market. A growing number of e-bike specific stores are opening while traditional bike stores are recognizing that higher price tags can yield greater margins, but more are needed.
Manufacturers must improve quality. A small North American market and a broad range of available e-bikes with greatly varying quality means consumers have to be extra savvy about their purchases. Since many shops may carry just one e-bike, making an informed choice can be difficult for consumers. For e-bikes to become an attractive transportation choice for North Americans, manufacturers need to focus on improving carrying capacity and allow the use of traditional baskets and panniers. In addition, front and rear lights on all models should be a requirement, not an accessory.
We encourage you to learn more about e-bikes and take one for a spin. When you do, pay attention to how easy (or difficult) it is to start from a stop. Some e-bikes give you a push right away while others require you to pedal hard to get going. And before you make a purchase read the instruction manual! Battery life, battery storage and how you use the motor can vary greatly and misuse can result in shorter battery life or extreme inefficiencies while riding.
E-bikes are a welcome, viable, fun and important transportation option. While their power remains untapped in North America, we hope to see manufacturers, shops and lawmakers embrace their benefits and increase the acceptance of their use. Go to your local bike shop and ask to test an e-bike today.
Mia Kohout & Tania Lo - Publishers, Momentum Mag
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