Out on the trails and even on city streets there is a small but vociferous population of traditional cyclists who do not consider e-bikes their equal. In order to build united biking communities, it is essential that people who love bikes, with motors or without, make an effort to work together and treat each other with respect. While it is easy to make off-the-cuff statements, when we look at the big picture, we really are all looking for the same thing.
Addressing the concerns of traditional cyclists is an important step to take for e-bikes to be regularly accepted in biking communities. Some of these concerns have more foundation than others. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of helping them understand the purpose and abilities of e-bikes.
Some traditional cyclists see e-bikes as small motorcycles rather than electric assist bicycles. This creates a natural aversion when it comes to riding side by side on trails and bike lanes. Most local statutes require e-bikes to have maximum speeds that are in line with the capabilities of pedal powered bikes. If this was more widely understood, this objection could be eliminated. Most e-bikes also do require pedaling, especially if the rider is maximizing their riding range. Far from sitting back and letting the e-bike do the work, most e-bike riders are getting in a workout as well.
Another issue largely comes down to ego. People who have spent years building skill and muscle to propel themselves up hills and through rough terrain on a traditional bike simply do not like being passed by an e-bike rider who clearly couldn’t do it on their own. To ease this problem, e-bike riders should be respectful of anyone riding near them, leaving plenty of space when passing and observing the rules of the trail.
The truth is that many people who are riding e-bikes do not see a traditional bicycle as an alternative. Whether one does not want to get sweaty on the way to work or simply cannot ride up those hills if they wanted to, they are choosing an e-bike over an automobile, not over a standard bike. If more cyclists understood this truth, they may have fewer objections. It would certainly take care of the complaint that e-bikes are not as environmentally friendly as traditional bikes. While this is true, it is also true that e-bikes are exponentially more Earth friendly than any four wheeled vehicles.
The environmental concerns are not limited to the energy consumed by the e-bikes. Wear to trails and upkeep of bike paths is another issue frequently brought up by traditional cyclists. This is an ongoing debate regarding how e-bike cyclists can contribute to a greater extent for bike trail maintenance and similar expenses. Whether the e-bikes really do cause more wear or not, they do result in more people on the trails. But, isn’t this a good thing?
In the end, e-bikes are a growing industry that is enabling more people to get off the couch and out of their cars. This can only be considered an improvement in our sedentary, energy hungry society. If e-bike owners are polite toward our traditional bike cousins and respectful of the biking infrastructure that they have made possible, we can all get along out on the open road and on the mountain trails.