Era of the E-bike
Electronic bikes, or e-bikes as they are better known, are popular in Europe for their low carbon footprint, affordability, and ease of maneuvering on crowded, narrow streets. In North America, they have taken a little bit longer to catch on, but now the excitement is spreading.
American interest in e-bikes began in the 1970s, when the energy crisis left people struggling to pay for gas, even when it was plentiful. Riding a bike is fun and healthy, but for those with long commutes or a level of fitness that did not support the trips they needed to make, e-bikes were an attractive solution. The e-bikes of the 1970s were heavier and less attractive than the sleek models that you can buy today. While the popularity of mopeds and motorcycles flourished in the 1970s, e-bikes failed to really catch on.
A couple of decades later, Americans began considering electric bikes again. The 1990s and the era since has seen and increased desire for lifestyles that are healthy, not only for us but for our environment. Instead of looking to e-bikes because they had to, people began searching for ways to be Earth friendly simply because they wanted to.
War in the Persian Gulf drove up the price of gasoline in the 2000s, making e-bikes even more desirable. During this period that saw gas prices in the US soar over $4 per gallon, the hope to “Save the Earth” was paired with financial necessity. Some people could no longer afford their commute to work, let alone leisure travel.
Now that e-bikes are captivating the attention of our nation, many people are beginning to appreciate the fun exercise that they can gain while getting motorized assistance when they need it. The commute to work is more relaxing and enjoyable, not to mention less expensive, on an e-bike compared to even the most Earth friendly automobile. People who have not rode a bike in years are remembering how great it can be.
You can start exercising with an e-bike even when travelling on a traditional bike may be too difficult. With the reliable motor to help you maintain speed, make your way up hills, and take long, leisurely trips, you can enjoy riding a bike. Now that e-bikes are found in most large cities in the nation, their popularity has spread quickly.
In 2012, a great majority (92%) of the world’s e-bikes were sold in China. What holds back the e-bike market in the US and Canada?
Cost is one factor that is often cited as a detriment to making an e-bike purchase. The mistake here is comparing the price of an e-bike to the cost of a traditional bicycle. The base price for a dependable e-bike is about $2,000. However, you will not buy yourself a very reliable automobile for that price. The cost of operation, maintenance, and insurance are also a fraction of what they are for a car or truck. Especially if you tend to travel within 10 miles of your home (statistically, most people do), an electric bike is an affordable, environmentally friendly alternative to the expense of operating a vehicle.
Safety is another issue for people who might consider an e-bike for their daily commute but are worried about maneuvering one in heavy traffic. Many cities are solving this problem by installing bike lanes along poplar commuting routes. E-bike riders can also consider taking side roads and less crowded routes for greater safety. Always wear a helmet and bright colors when riding your e-bike. Your bike should also have lights, reflectors, and a bell.
The most significant hurdle that electric bikes must overcome may be culture. In a society that places a high value on automobiles and the status symbols that they have become, e-bikes are slowly gaining a faithful following. As their use increases and consumers become more concerned with the environment than their shiny, expensive car, e-bikes are expected to continue to grow in popularity by leaps and bounds.
If you are considering purchasing an e-bike for your commute, road trips, or exercise, test drive a few models. You will be pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of options and the comfortable ride that you can have.