Next Generation Electric Bicycles
The growing popularity of pedal-assist e-bikes could dramatically boost the number of two-wheel commuters and longer-distance riders. These bikes are powered by pedaling just like an ordinary bicycle, but a small electric motor kicks in to give you a boost up hills, into the wind or over long distances. Electric-assist bikes make it easier for older people and residents of hilly cities to enjoy the benefits of biking, and are popular with commuters who don’t like to arrive at work sweaty. In the Netherlands, where electric bikes now account for 10 percent of sales, planners are starting to build inter-city bike highways to support the longer range of travel possible with e-bikes.
(left) The New York Times reported that David Chiu, president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors (on right, pictured with bicycle entrepreneur Gary Fisher), “uses an electric bike to get to meetings without sweating through his suit.” Photo: San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
A boost up the hill, not an engine
There are a half-million electric bikes on the streets in the U.S, compared to 120 million in China. Many Americans cyclists dread sharing bike lanes and paths with speeding motor-powered electric vehicles, but e-bikes (as opposed to mopeds and scooters) have top speeds of 16-20 miles per hour—about the same speed as a hard-pedaling rider.
(right) A pedal-assist electric bicycle looks and feels like a standard bike, but offers a boost when needed. Photo: Trek