Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Electric! A Case of Fear and Loathing?

Zoomi Monterey E-Bike
Every once in a while I am asked why I do not write about electric bikes, and the answer is simple: because they do not interest me. Maybe in 40 years they will, but at the moment I do not find myself longing for a sweet e-assist ride. Still, I have nothing against electric bikes and their usefulness is readily apparent to me: cargo bikes and pedicabs, upright bikes in truly hilly areas, and bikes with assistance for the elderly and others who have a hard time pedaling on their own power. What's not to like?

Yesterday I was cycling across town and a middle-aged man on an e-bike was pedaling in the bike lane just ahead of me. He was going pretty slowly, so I passed him, not giving it a second thought. Then behind me I heard another cyclist passing him, and then I heard that cyclist shout: "Get the f- out of the bike lane you retard!" There was more, and the abuse was directed toward him riding an e-bike - which the regular cyclist did not feel belonged in the bike lane. That was not the first time I'd heard this sentiment. From Interbike last year, I know that the e-bike industry is trying hard to push e-assist onto the cycling market, and I also know that there is resistance among those who see e-bikes as a threat to "real cycling." But I figured meanies will be meanies and soon forgot about the shouting incident. 

Then this morning, I saw a link to this article in the Gothamist, debating whether a $1000 fine for riding an e-bike was overkill (the previous amount was $500). I had not even known that e-bikes were illegal in NYC, but apparently they are. It is illegal to ride them and it is illegal for bike shops to sell them. And now the city is considering a serious crack-down, because the food delivery guys on their "souped up" bikes are out of control, terrorising the peaceful citizens by going as fast as 30mph. 

What bothers me about the NYC situation is not specific to e-bikes. It's that instead of the government regulating public behaviour with strictly enforced laws, perfectly useful objects are criminalised. 30mph is a speed that any decent roadie can hit on their racing bike without the help of e-assist. Yet racing bikes are not outlawed in NYC as far as I know. If speed-demon delivery boys are causing problems, set and enforce a speed limit. But the blanket targeting of e-bikes is not logical. When posting a link to the Gothamist article, a bicycle blogger wrote: "NYC is flat and small enough that no one needs an e-bike here. Ever." What she means of course, is that she does not feel the need for an e-bike in NYC. Neither do I in Boston. But that line of thinking can just as well be applied to us by others. "Nobody needs to be riding a bike on the road!" is something I've heard too many times. The fear and loathing of e-bikes is just as irrational. 

If we're going to outlaw stuff, I personally would like to see a law for motor vehicles to be stripped of doors, since doorings are responsible for countless cyclist injuries and deaths in cities. Make car doors illegal and problem solved. Maybe NYC should get on that.

77 comments:

  1. Call me cynical, but it sounds more like a revenue grab than an actual attempt to improve safety.

    If safety was actually an issue, they'd be issuing tickets for unsafe operation of the bike - any - bike, and not singling out a particular type that has legitimate value for less-abled people.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Or we could just ban personal automobiles from the roads, since they cause more deaths than almost anything else in the U.S.

    But you're right - we're very good at prohibition here. If someone misuses something, we just ban the something, rather than give the person a consequence for misusing it.

    I agree that this kind of behavior is ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just know I'm not getting the point, but something about today's entry makes me want to hear a riff on the pros and cons of frame-mounted front racks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If they were "assisted" bikes with 50W or 100W motors I could see your point more easily. In fact if someone is using the famed Cancellara motor on a street bike you wouldn't even know it.

    The bikes being sold have 500W and 1000W motors. They are motorcycles. Badly engineered and seriously underbuilt motorcycles. Motorcycles that could not remotely pass any sort of safety inspection as motorcycles.

    Yes roadies do 30mph. One hopes that before they can do that at will they have learned a few things and that they understand their bikes and how to operate them safely. The muscular gym rat whose first bike is a Di2 Cervelo chunking along in 53x11 is terrifying at 30mph.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not opposed to limiting the size of the motor in the way an e-bike is defined. But as far as I understand, all e-bikes are illegal in NYC.

      As for electronic shifting, I don't even know what to say. For the purposes of competitive roadcycling I think the definition of a bicycle should exclude the use of electronic components (not counting the computer).

      Delete
    2. I got the power thing a bit off. A racing bike with a tucked rider in tight clothing needs 700 watts or more to get 30mph. A Chinese sail with pizza boxes is going to need 1500 watts at least to do 30. That's two horsepower. That's a motorcycle. That's a motor vehicle. It's not a bicycle.

      At best it's a grey area in the law. That grey legal matter makes everyone nervous and uncertain is no surprise. Right now there is no definition of an e-bike. The mfrs are all pushing motors that are just monstrous in bicycle terms.

      Delete
    3. Are you sure about those performance metrics? Most of the e-bikes sold in the U.S. are limited to either 15 or to 20 mph by design.

      Delete
  5. The irony is that in your anecdote the guy on the e-bike was going slower than the guy that yelled at him. It's not about speed. People don't like e-bikes and that's all there is to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pretty much my point. And FWIW the people I see riding e-bikes around here are almost always cycling slowly. Seems they genuinely need the assist to be able to pedal at a speed we take for granted.

      Delete
    2. or he was just pedaling a heavy bike on the flats, saving the "e" part for the hills. ebikes aren't usually "on" all the time -- if they were, the battery would run out fairly quickly!

      Delete
  6. I generally agree. If delivery guys are terrorizing people, ticket them for the actual terrorizing, not the bike.

    That said, there is an issue of facility access as ebikes get more powerful. You can already get ebikes that could almost qualify as electric mopeds - more of an electric scooter with pedals that a bicycle with a power assist. If machines like this are allowed to use bike paths/lanes, it is going to get pretty chaotic pretty quick.

    E assist is a very useful feature that could make bicycling more accessible to a lot of people so outright bans seem counter productive. But maybe there needs to be some sort of power output limit or top speed limit to legally separate what is a bicycle from a scooter/moped.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. what msrw says. I've done quite a bit of research and most bikes have a limit of 15-20mph. I do not know about after market kits however... But a bike like Kalkhoff or Gepida tap out at about 20. Sanyo's is 15mph and the person I know who owns one says she can't win any races but she's moving....

      Delete
  7. Why would that bicyclist care that it was an ebike? Was the ebike causing anybody any problems or was the bicyclist just an a..hole?

    MA law explicitely allows ebikes in bike lanes, BTW.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly, MA law cannot protect from ignorance. The other day I was almost hit by a car turning left as I went straight across an intersection on a green light. I gave the guy a "hey!" gesture as he narrowly missed me, in response to which he rolled down the window and in an aggravated voice yelled "Crosswalk!!!"

      Delete
    2. I, on the other hand, was walking to a T stop and was almost hit by a cyclist riding through a crosswalk (and on the sidewalks). Frequently getting brushed by the sidewalk riders in the warmer months (and get especially furious about it when I'm pushing my daughter in her stroller). Sure Brookline Ave can get busy, but I ride it all the time.

      What annoys me are the folks on Vespas and the like and those bikes that have been retrofit with smelly, smoking gas motors riding in the bike lanes. Run into a couple of those folks on the paths of the Emerald necklace and wanted to say something to them. Did cuss out the scooter driver who passed me and forced me into a car mirror when I was filtering.

      In general, inconsiderate people suck regardless of their mode of transportation.

      Delete
  8. Seems like NYC has a weird law. I don't mind e-bikes on cycling paths as long as their speed is limited. Europe has much more stricter rules regarding e-bikes and 1000W "semi-motorcycles" are not allowed there.
    I would like to try an e-bike since there is nothing better to handle those steep hills I have to climb every day on may way back from work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not that its a weird law as much as there is no law. They are considered "unlicensed motor vehicles". Segways and minibikes are illegal in NYC for the same reason. I've asked my elected officials to get electric bikes a category under the law in the same way as they are allowed in the UK: power-assisted, as long as you are pedaling.

      Delete
  9. No sooner do I read this than I see this from my favorite moto manufacturer - 24 km/h top speed:

    http://www.ducati.com/news/ducati___italwin/2012/02/21/2380/index.do

    Don't need one yet but that day is coming :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. The sentiments of those who would not consider e-bikes to be bicycles at all speaks to how our fellow cyclists circle the wagons and shoot inward. In an era when we should be looking at diversity in transportation and an aging population of potential cyclists, 'e' or otherwise, the whole idea of this form of transport should be embraced as not only an alternative form of transportation, but also an alternative form of cycling.... or we could go back to really big front wheels, no innertubes, only single speed cycles....well, you get it I think! Welcome the ranks of the 'e' cyclists, co-opt them into our clubs and they, too, can advocate for cycling and alternative transportaion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree! ........... I'm more offended by the attitude and foul mouth of the apparently "offended" cyclist.
      There is some kind of an elitism developing, and this combined with quite a superior and toxic attitude is doing nothing to endear cyclists to anyone.

      Delete
  11. "I ride for transport, consequently these are bad: road cyclists and e-bikes. Cars too, unless I need one. I will add more as I see fit."

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree with Ken Benny. There's something absurd and parochial about bicyclists--who hate being harassed by car drivers--choosing to harass e-bicyclists.

    Ebikes clearly have a roll to play in reducing the use of cars in urban areas. The Dutch have taken to ebikes in droves, likewise the Chinese. For people who don't have a background in bicycling, ebikes appear to represent a viable alternative to a car better than would a normal bicycle. Even in places without hills.

    But I think ebikes may also be useful in some cases to serious bicyclists. My wife uses a Giant Twist Freedom ebike to commute to work--her commute is 11 miles and climbs from 7,000 to 9,000 feet. The ebike allows her to arrive in presentable condition. She's a serious cyclist, but none of her other bikes offer the same capability.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I wouldn't be suprised if some motorcycle and car resellers gave some timely contributions to the responsible politicians in NYC to make those laws. On the other hand at some point a e-assist bike becomes a motorcycle.
    Here there is a 250 W limit on the engines, though I sometimes tun into a guy who is rumored to have outfitted his bike with a 1000W engine. There is no way to keep up with him, even though he isn't pedaling hard, I have tried. I do think e-bikes make for very good commuters, dropping the kids of at kindergarten, then going to work bikes. 250 W is equivalent to what a pretty decent amateur can keep up for an hour or so.
    People screaming at slow cyclist or e-cyclists should have their behaviour recorded and shown to their mothers.

    ReplyDelete
  14. When I am king, that shouting abusive cyclist that will pay a jerk tax.

    From a policy point of view, perhaps the concern is that e-bikes may be or could become similar to motor scooters. Have you ever tried to navigate the roads of Martha's Vineyard? Scooters are everywhere and they are sort of in the road and sort of on the side of the road. Fair or not, there isn't a logical place for them. Is it that lawmakers are actually afraid of motor bikes dressed like bicycles, and not the old man e-biking at 12mph?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd support that for some shouting cyclists. On the other hand, I refuse to give up my right to shout at (and lay on my air zound at) the fools who double park in the bike lane (or just sit their waiting not parked). Those folks (and I see them too often at Coolidge Corner) deserve a good shouting.

      Delete
  15. I don't worry much about ebikes, and I agree that it's more effective to crack down on the actual offending behaviors, which in NYC evidently include ninja salmoning and sidewalk riding.

    What scares me in MA is that honest to God motorscooters like vespas are allowed to use on-street bike lanes (although not multi-use paths). Having one of those breathing down your neck, or leaving you in a cloud of 2 stroke exhaust is no fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That happened to me like once. I think Boston is already making scooters a hassle by messing with the plates/parking on sidewalk issue. Add the snow and I really don't worry much about scooters here.

      I actually wanted to get one at some point. :)

      Delete
    2. I love the smell of a two-stroke in the morning.

      Delete
    3. Wait, those vespas buzzing me in the bike lane are legal? Heck no to that. They're motorized, put them in the traffic lane where they belong.

      Delete
    4. I got caught in a giant club ride of antique scooter riders- 60's rice bikes mostly, and it was charming for about 60 seconds, and then the exhaust was suffocating.
      I think that vespas are charming, and a decent way to get around the city, but I don't think they should be allowed in the bike lanes.

      I don't really have a problem with ebikes in the bike lane, especially if they're speed governed.

      Delete
  16. Under Florida law, certain motor scooters qualify as bicycles. It may be that certain electric bikes also qualify as electric bicycles, too, though one shouldn't pine for excessive consistency in a state with the finest laws that money can buy.

    An interesting and possibly unintended consequence of the law is that at least one shop is aggressively marketing the vehicles as "DUI Scooters".

    As far as I know, Florida doesn't have any cycling under the influence laws, at least any that take away the right to bicycle, so it appears that Florida drunks might have a permanent franchise for power assisted beer runs.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I find it crazy that ebikes are outlawed in some places!
    I live in Ottawa (the one in Canada) and we do have rules about ebikes...You can ride an e-bike in the bike path or bike lane. You can't go faster than 25 km/hr on a bicycle, rollerblades, or an e-bike while on the paths.
    And you can't ride any scooter on the paths unless it truly is an e-bike (ie. It looks exacly like a bicycle but has a little motor box on it).
    The only exceptions to things on the paths are motorized wheel chairs are allowed.
    I see quite a few e-bikes in Ottawa and the seem to be pretty neat!
    The only downside is our "scooter/mo-ped/vespa" dealer in the area sells it with a licence plate that sais "e-bike". Which it's not..because it't not a bicycle.
    So there is some confusion in our city..I guess we just have to wait for the bike police to catch perpetrators (I love seeing the policemen on bicycles! Nice legs...).

    ReplyDelete
  18. In Australia, ebikes are legal but restrictions are placed on them. You can't have more than 150W of power, the motor has to cut out when you reach 37km/h, and it can't have throttle.

    I love my ebike. There is no way I could cycle to work as regularly as I do without it, given the hills that I need to overcome. On a normal bike, I couldn't make the trip more than twice a week without making myself unwell.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I agree that the deed should be punished but that is never going to happen at a rate that will actually discourage the kind of riding delivery guys do that makes most of Lappin's constiuents hate e-bikes. (I mean the constituents complaining to Lappin, not the cyclists who consider them unworthy, like the jerk you saw.) I don't really know what the answer is.

    What does scare me is how much heavier e-bikes look. I work in midtown and I'm afraid of bike messengers at times (and have witnessed someone put in an ambulance, not able to sit/stand from ped/messenger collision) and a lot of the e-bike delivery guys are just as careless/risky...but the e-bikes look HEAVIER. So I assume it's going to hurt more if they hit me at slower speeds but that might be irrational.

    To be fair, in NYC I often see *mopeds* with food deliveries on the sidewalks, too, in addition to plenty of cyclists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree. Her constituents are getting furious about something they're entirely complicit in, as well. When their takeout doesn't arrive in 10 minutes they scream and complain. These guys are under pressure to deliver FAST -- there is no realism about that in this bill.

      And of course, there is the whole issue of number of people killed by cars or trucks on the UES vs number killed by e-bikes. I think we all know what the real danger is.

      This is a district where quality of life issues trump all and the NIMBYs are loud and proud.

      Delete
    2. "...furious about something they're entirely complicit in, as well. When their takeout doesn't arrive in 10 minutes they scream and complain. These guys are under pressure to deliver FAST..."

      Good point; I hadn't even considered that angle.

      Delete
    3. Yes, totally - cars and trucks trump all when we're looking at what I would feel least safe around. And livery cab drivers are probably the worst - even when I'm in the car asking them not to block a bike lane or watch out for peds or bikers, etc they are still the worst. The only way I can get them to slow down is to tell them I get carsick unless they drive slowly. Part of the issue is needing to work fast to make more money. Neither delivery guys or livery cab drivers are rolling in the dough - I'm sure their timing makes a difference in their pockets.

      And yes, NIMBYs to the max - when I read the quotes about safety in that piece it gave me a flashback to the PPW bike lane all over again and how the elderly and mothers with strollers are facing certain death.

      Delete
  20. I'm looking for the day when "retard" is as unacceptable as any other hate speech.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, I think it's a more commonly used term in Boston than elsewhere.

      Delete
    2. In most of the online forums in which I participate, it is indeed considered a form of hate speech. In the places where it's not an offense that gets you outright banned, you will get a heavy dose of censure from the other people posting.

      Very few of my friends in real life would use it either. It would be seen as very rude.

      Delete
  21. I love ebikes! They are everywhere over here in NL. What I don't love are brommers (gas powered mopeds) that we have to share the bike lanes with. They go over 20mph and stink with exhaust. They come up from behind very quickly and give quite a shock sometimes.

    Ebikes do not have to have a license because they go under 15mph. They are a popular choice for the elderly who used to actively bike, but now can't. What's the difference from an ebike and an elderly person's mobility scooter? It's pedaling at the same time. That's all. I've seen some scooters really kick it. What's NYC going to do? start outlawing mobility scooters next??

    Or let me guess.. the elderly don't get scooters because the sidewalks are not handicapped friendly and have no ramps? <_< Are they allowed to use bike paths in NYC like they are allowed to use bike paths here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rona, yes. Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are allowed to be in bike lanes and are there, often. The buffered lanes have provided a lot of protection for these people, which is great.

      Delete
    2. That's great to know. I'm glad the disabled at least have some options for scooters.

      I'm curious what they would think of handbikes? or e-assist handbikes? It's technically pedaling.....but looks like a wheelchair with hand cranks in the front. I do hope no one would ever say something mean to the wheelchair bound.

      Delete
  22. Here in British Columbia, Canada the law is pretty well defined as to output and speed restrictions, my only concern is when someone is going over 20 mph on bike routes and fail to warn others when they fly past you and there is not a lot of room. One is off to a good start if the welfare of others is put first. It's not something you see too often but what a difference it can make.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Like they can actually hit anywhere close to 30mph on NYC streets. Brings to mind that big wheel vs city bus video.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I really think that there is an equity issue that is at stake here for elderly and disabled people who might not be able to ride on other than an eBike, or to go useful distances on a normal bike. It would be interesting to see what would happen if those with issues which can only be addressed by riding ebikes were to lobby for the law to be changed in NYC.

    ReplyDelete
  25. That's awful--both that they're illegal in NYC, and the behavior of the guy name-calling.

    I don't ride an e-bike, but I love the idea and I hope they become more popular. I think that for people who find cycling to be physically difficult, they're fantastic.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Think for a moment of how bicycles are maintained. Not your bike. Not your friends' bikes. The Sogreni found a few weeks back is a good example of how bikes are maintained. Imagine a motor bolted to the as-found Sogreni. The motor itself would be the single most reliable componenent. The motor will keep kicking like Lance Armstrong when the rest of the bike is falling apart.

    Sure the cohort who reads here will operate these things responsibly. Doesn't mean there's not a can of worms inside these machines.

    Electric motors make lots of torque. The production ebikes I've been on dole out plenty torque because that makes the ride fun. Torque equals acceleration. I've done 30mph in midtown Manhattan on pedal power only. With an electric assist a lot of guys could. Too many. Heck I've paced in the street at 25 next to a guy who was making that speed on the sidewalk.

    ReplyDelete
  27. The problem is a combination of un-disciplined users and new technology. The operator is the issue, obviously, and there is no reason to blame the bike, and more than to say bikes of more than 3 speeds are the problem. Unfortunately, the delivery sidewalk salmon has become the "face" of ebikes, and thus made the bike the scapegoat. That being said, these guys ARE faster and more unpredictable on these bikes, largely because the normal laws of physics that pedestrians have come to understand about bikes - how fast will that bike accelerate, when will he reach the crosswalk I'm on, etc - no longer hold. Thus they are likely more dangerous.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Just to clear up a bit of confusion about the issue of e-bike legality in NYC. They are currently illegal, but there is a bill in the senate (has already passed the Assembly) that brings NY up to speed with federal law, legalizing e-bikes that do not exceed 1000 watts/20MPH. Nobody expects that it will not pass.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a good bill, of course, to bring NY in alignment with other states, and no doubt applies to new oem-spec e-bikes. It does, however, not address enforcement. Not to mention the rich subculture of tuners, speaking of two-strokes or mopeds.

      I distinctly remember in the early 70s my grandmother's neighbor kid salmoning while delivering a pizza one handed in Queens, his job. Delivery vehicles will always be an issue, whether the cargo is people, food or goods, but NIMBYs should be required to hang on for dear life on the back of a scooter for a day. Just to get a clue.

      Delete
    2. There was a good piece in the Atlantic Cities about NY needing "Broken windows" for traffic crimes. We really do. Right now we live in an upside down world.

      Delete
  29. I agree with all that you say Velouria, except for the "take the doors off cars". That made me chuckle. I wasn't quite sure if you were being tongue-in-cheek. At any rate, the Indian autorickshaw, Thai tuktuk came to mind. I can tell you this, sitting in one of these during winter (North India), even with layers on, (try to envisage cold air rushing at you from several angles) is not my idea of fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peppy (the amazing dry cycling cat)February 29, 2012 at 8:31 PM

      Not to mention occupants would get wet! What was she thinking, really?

      Delete
    2. Yes, what was she thinking? :) It would be Peppy (the amazingly wet and bedraggled transported cat) if Velouria had her way.

      Delete
  30. Hell to the yeah. I was upset to hear about the NYC law and wonder about NYCebikes which sells e-bikes and e scooters. I went there last spring to test ride a few bikes and planned to go back to test ride others.

    You know how I feel about e-bikes I am sure. I feel the same as you, except that I LOVE mine. LOVE it so much I can't even describe. And I kinda want to turn my public into an e-bike. My only issue with lots of electric two wheelers is that they are not very nice looking... but aside from that- I don't know many who are speeding. ( delivery guys in NYC nonwithstanding and I don't think they need a motor to do that and be in the way and lawless.

    I sadly had to stop reading that particular blogger b/c I was put off by the the judgement. Anyway- thanks for writing about this. I was too angry and annoyed to write an objective post about it so I didn't. I'm glad to read one here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is an electric Omafiets loop frame on the market here in NL. Hopefully in time it will be in the US. Not all e-bikes have to be ugly!

      Delete
  31. Being among the 8th and 9th ave bike lanes everyday I can tell you lack of regulation is an issue. Bikes e bikes cars cabs limos wheelchairs suitcases with wheels razors rollerbladers and even a dog in a wheel dolly use them. It's the wild west in the bike lanes. No opinion. Just observation.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I live in a very hilly area outside of Seattle. I have been building up to bike commuting up some ferocious hills. Trust me, I have thought long and hard about an e-bike. So far I haven't given in.
    I think with our oil dependence, anything that helps get people out of cars and onto bikes would be a plus to the rider and the environment.
    Regulating the power and speed of e-bikes would be OK.I think we should encourage people to use bikes. It is far better to have more e-bikes than more cars on the road.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Around here out in the sticks we don't see E-Bikes much but we have "Road Snails" and Likker-Sikkles". Cheap 2 cycle scooters that you can operate without the license you lost for driving while lit up. You DO need to wear a helmet so the thrift stores are fresh out of old football, street hockey and skateboard lids. My 61 year old homeless pothead foster/friend/tapeworm has one. When it's running I don't have to take him to the doctor or the market. So we have some of the same issues.

    One evening we're eating on the deck listening to the nearly stationary whining buzz of one of these things smoking up the hill by our house and my daughter Caroline wondered aloud why anyone would ever want to ride one of them. We explained that it was the only transportation that some people could afford and if you lost your license there weren't too many other options. My daughter Sarah then remarked "It sucks that when your life is most depressing they make it almost suicidal to leave the house". She's 11. I suddenly saw a bit of the other side.

    So, you're getting a little stiff in the joints and you don't have the lungs you once did, or you can't pass a drivers test because you don't have good enough English or maybe you're struggling with a drinking problem and you got busted. What are your options?..., some sort of nasty little unregulated 2 wheeled turd. And where are you allowed to operate this wonder of punitive mobility? The edge of the public road, 9 inches away from the SUVs and poultry trucks, and right amongst the Moms pushing strollers(against traffic as the law requires), the runners and the recreational bikers with their fancy bikes and martian clothes. EVERYBODY resents you being there, every third vehicle blows the horn or strafes you and the only time you have the lane to yourself is when it's raining pitchforks and hatchet handles or it's like one degree out and all the people who feel it's their Fricken road are inside while you creep to work or the grocery store(or, let's be realistic, sometimes the liquor store).

    I don't know. Are these E-Bikes/scooters the problem or the collateral damage of other peoples solutions to other problems? Are the laws capricious and misguided or just imperfect? Is a bicycle that allows someone to ride more (or at all) bad because it's got a little juice up it's sleeve? Does a motorcycle that's only just big enough to do this one little job deserve to be treated like one of the Knuckle Dragger's ridiculous Harley's(Knuckle Dragger is not a pejorative term like "retard", they actually have patches on their jackets with an adorable caricature of a Neanderthal in a spiked helmet. In a different world the terms would be interchangeable)? Again, I have no clue. But I for one have started to give the PEOPLE who ride these wretched things a break. They gotta get around, they can't afford a hoverbike and we can't make them stop trying to do whatever it is that's important to them just by making it harder or getting wound up every time they wander into our bubble. Jesus said "The poor will always be with us, cut em' a break", or words to that effect.

    You can't make them obey traffic laws that don't work for them, and if you treat them like adversaries they just go all Lindsey Lohan and bust your mirrors off. They have a better idea of the cost(I.E. risk) of their actions than we ever will until we find ourselves in their saddles. What does somebody riding one of these have left to lose.

    So I try not to blame them for the ways in which my grass isn't green or my sky isn't blue. Well, until they sneak into my shed in the middle of the night a steal all my chainsaw gas, the bastards.

    Spindizzy

    Sorry this is so stupid long.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I don't feel the need for an e-bike but I think they are awesome, a perfect way to make cycling accessible to non-athletes, parents, people who carry a lot of cargo, the elderly and the disabled. Not to mention people who don't live on flats: if I still lived in Pittsburgh or any other hilly city I would buy one in a heartbeat. It's elitism pure and simple, just establish a speed limit and apply it across the board to everyone. I would bank on the average e-biker being slower than an average cyclist since e-bikers would be much less likely to be athletic. I would agree with capping the speed of e-bikes though, say by having the motor cut out once you hit 15 mph or so. 30 is too fast for anyone in a bike lane, at that point you get on the road.

    In Maryland you need a driver's license with a motorcycle rider to ride one (of any wattage) but they are allowed in bike lanes. Personally I feel this is a stupid law because the motor is an ASSIST, not a fully independently functioning motor, but this state has some messed up driving laws I tell you what.

    ReplyDelete
  35. It's just another example of what ever is new is dangerous.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I own 8 bicycles. One of them is electric. Sometimes it's my commute-to-work bike. I can pedal lightly and arrive at work without prespiring. Not to mention, it also has the best lighting system I've ever seen on a bike, and one of my regular bikes has a $300 setup. I sometimes ride home at night from work on an unlit bike path. It's nice to have great lights and some assistance if I need to get away from an idiot or drunk. And yes, I did encounter one at night last year that wanted to take my bike.

    It's my grocery store bike (big panniers). There are some steep hills between me and the grocery.

    But sometimes it's just fun to ride when I want to be lazy. I've had it for 2 years and really do enjoy it. For me, it's transportation, not sport. This is what other cyclist need to realize. If I'm not going to work or the grocery, I'm usually on a regular bike. There's plenty of space for both.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Well, I have heard there has been trouble with ebikes and those electric scooters with pedals on them being ridden in bike lanes and on shoulders where cyclists ride. A few years ago when oil went way high as it is about to again, my mom was telling me about all the rogue electric scooter and bike riders buzzing around scaring cyclists, being erratic, not following the rules of the road at all and generally annoying everybody. Where I live scooters occasionally take the shoulder and bike lane because they cannot get up to the speed limit on the highway and there are so few cyclists or pedestrians it is okay. I also rarely see an ebike going very fast and it seems almost ridiculous to me. But twice in Vancouver I have walked over a pedestrian/cyclist bridge crossing and a motorized scooter has barreled through. I frowned at the driver as if "what are you doing?!" because his little vehicle could obviously go the speed limit and it was completely inappropriate for him to be amongst pedestrians with dogs, kids, strollers etc. I can see the ebikes have their place and all, but if they are going so fast, it is no longer safe for them to ride with pedal powered cyclists.
    Rudeness goes across the board and many cyclists out there do not even remotely follow the rules of the road which make it dangerous for everyone. And pedestrians! Please stay off the bike lane! Bike lanes are special arteries for cyclists to get around with some semblance of safety and efficiency. It's really scary when you stand there with your dog or children jumping around.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I think electric assist bikes are great, allowing people who otherwise couldn't ride to ride. The wife of an internet acquantence of mine has severe asthma and couldn't ride with him without her electric assist.

    In the UK the rules are pretty well define for an electric assist to still be a bicycle:
    The vehicle must not weigh more than 40 kg if a solo bicycle, or 60 kg in the case of a tandem or tricycle.
    The vehicle must be fitted with pedals, by which it can be propelled.
    The vehicle must not be fitted with any sort of motor other than an electric motor.
    The continuous rated output of the motor must not exceed 200 watts if fitted to a solo bicycle, or 250 watts in the case of a tandem or tricycle.
    The motor must not propel the vehicle when it is travelling faster than 15 mph.

    Anything outside of this is a motorbike and must be registered and operated as such.

    ReplyDelete
  39. E-bikes are a small niche in most American places and even here in Minnesota we have our problems. Just the opposite of NYNY, our suburbs are seeing the e-bike on bike paths and people are complaining for the same reasons. What's funny is that the riders are not fast deliverymen but, older clueless riders who "want to get back into cycling" We can thank the bike industry for "pushing" this product. The bike industry can do more to help set policy in the future till then it is what it is.

    ReplyDelete
  40. As someone with movement issues, my take on e-bikes is that they're a life saver for a lot of people. Give up riding because some enthusiasts are bitchy? Never.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Every thirteen minutes a fatality occurs in a traffic accident. We are burning fossil fuel at an alarming rate. The cost is high for us, and the products we purchase increase as fuel goes up. A four door sedan can have a 300 h.p. engine (my bosses has 500 h.p.) It is very easy to get ones self into trouble there. We also have a largely overweight public, with rising health care costs for all of us to shoulder. What the heck with picking on bicyclists?

    ReplyDelete
  42. I think a lot of the dislike of e-bikes would go away if car traffic were slowed to 30 km/h. That way the fast e-bikers wouldn't be interested in using the sidewalks.

    ReplyDelete
  43. If the majority of e-bikers on the streets of Bklyn and Manhattan would adhere to common cycling etiquette - use of bells or other polite way to announce their approach from behind, etc - I wouldn't have such scorn for them. For the most part, they behave as though they are on motorcycles in the bike lane, which can be terrifying at times. It's not the e-bikes; it's the riders.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I ride in NYC a LOT -- several thousands of miles a year -- and have never seen an electric bike going 30mph. The vast majority of the time they are doing 12-16, which is maybe marginally faster than the average cyclist here, but still extremely passable on a regular road bicycle.

    E-bikes are also bigger and heavier than regular bikes, and therefore more difficult to maneuver, and don't tend to do the crazy things other inconsiderate bicyclists (deliverymen, 95% of the time) do. For instance, I have actually been hit head-on on two separate occasions and had close calls several other times by cyclists riding the wrong way on busy, one-way avenues. I also see cyclists on the sidewalk daily. Instituting fines for just those two transgressions (which I see enforced extremely rarely) would contribute to the safety and well-being of the population much, much more than arbitrarily targeting one mode of transportation that exists in the middle of a spectrum of acceptable, legal ways to get around.

    As has already been mentioned several times, it shouldn't be about the tool itself, but about what's done with it.

    ReplyDelete
  45. 30mph terror *eye roll*

    I was pretty shocked to read e-bikes are illegal in NYC. There is actually an e-bike specific shop here in Vancouver! The abusive language from the other cyclist is kind of shocking too, maybe it's more common in NYC...

    ReplyDelete
  46. Did you see the profile of a "day in the life" of a delivery man?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/nyregion/for-food-delivery-workers-speed-tips-and-fear-on-wheels.html?pagewanted=1&hp

    Makes the $1,000 fine especially stupid. Enforcement yes, persecution of marginal workers no.

    ReplyDelete
  47. As a Brooklynite, I have to say that the issue with the delivery guys and e-bikes is a variation on the general delivery guy issue, namely, going the wrong way, at night, without lights, bell or horn. Mind you, "regular" cyclists (non-delivery people) do this too, but with e-bikes, you simply can't see or hear them coming.

    ReplyDelete
  48. This is just another example of why we won't be a bike society.. the issue is peoples' behavior, not the machine. My son has mild CP and will probably need e-assist if he wants to commute by bike. We also know someone with MS that also uses E assist to bike to work. It allows people to use bikes that would normally not be able to, I find it really strange that that hard core bikers would find that offensive. It tells me that a good majority of people are biking due to it being trendy and not because they really want to see the US become a bike society and reduce fuel dependency. It also is why people find starting a sport intimidating, because of the attitude that if you aren't good at it or look good doing it, you don't belong.

    ReplyDelete
  49. That green e-bike in the pricture is very sexy and I like the front headtube rack a lot! I'd ride that one for sure!!!

    ReplyDelete