Thursday, July 28, 2011

The coming of the e-bikes, or biking for the bunches?

The August 2011 issues of Outside Magazine (On newsstands at the times of this posting) has an exploratory article about the possibility of ebikes becoming mainstream. The article by Todd Balf talks to different acolytes of ebikes including San Francisco shop owner Brett Thurber of The New Wheel who carries a range of electrical bicycles and bike fitting kits.

There is no doubt that E-bikes can definitely be a part of the solution in citieswhere short distances make the difference between car and bike negligible. The bigger question will be is this going to be viable for the suburbs where distances are larger. Out towns are zoned for cars, but perhaps our zoning laws could be changed to reflect a more earth friendly scale. Note that most building codes in the suburbs mandate a minimum number of car spaces for commercial spaces, but they do not mandate minimum bicycle spaces. A problem I've encountered in the past.

The cost of e-bikes is also prohibitive, but the popularity of these in China and Europe should drive the price down. Something to think about as time moves forward. While I was looking for the article online, I found out that Outside had written a blog post from 2009 where it reported sales were 200,000. The article this month says that sales are in the 350,000 for a single year with an expectation 800,000 within five years.

I can say personally that if one is not time pressed, electric bikes are a great way of exploring places in a relaxing manner. Last year I tried Change of Greenery in Napa Valley and we were able to explore a lot great wineries and enjoy the great scenery. While the bikes were heavy, it was definitely doable for any reasonably fit person to see a large part of Napa.

So if you have a chance to e-bike, or have e-biked, please let me know your experience in the comments.


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