Local governments should support electric bicycles, which could cut traffic and help to create sustainable communities.
By The Denver Post
Posted: 10/01/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
Forecasting the future is always tricky, but
European-style bicycle technology that incorporates small motors to
boost rider power appears to be a rising trend here.
While we admit a part of us will always favor those old-fashioned,
human-powered bicycles, we're intrigued by what the technology might
mean in terms of boosting bicycle commuting and overall ridership.
This is no conspiracy. We think the electric-bicycles — or e-bikes —
could help increase bicycle commuting and help clear congested roads and
But for these benefits to take place, city, regional and state
governments will have to get on board with reasonable rules and
regulations. Already, enough electric bicycles are
appearing on trails and paths to start the debate,
and some city councils have been quick to call for banning the bikes,
according to The Denver Post's Nancy Lofholm.
Denver allows them, but Boulder and Fort Collins have banned them from city trails unless riders have switched off the motors.
Part of the problem for lawmakers is that so many kinds of electric
gadgets are finding their way onto the market and onto the trail, from
e-bikes to scooters to Segways.
In the case of e-bikes, we think Denver's example is the correct one.
By federal law, e-bikes cut off the electric-motor assistance at 20
miles per hour, which is roughly the point at which riding a bike on
city paths becomes problematic.
their small motors make it easier for riders to get
around, they make cycling to work far more appealing. Even those of us
who are out of shape or elderly can sustain average speeds for much
longer with an e-cycle, says Dean Heyek-Franssen, co-founder of Pete's
Electric Bikes in Boulder, Aspen and Frisco.
The motors make no more noise than a traditional bike.
Charging their lithium batteries is as simple as plugging them into a wall socket for up to four hours.
advantage is the bikes encourage more people to get
out of their cars for their commute, and out of their easy chairs and
into more active lifestyles.
Of course, there are challenges as well. Cities hoping to expand
bicycle commuting must ensure paths are plentiful and safe, and that
appropriate speed limits are clearly visible to commuters.
Anyone who rides on popular bicycle paths realizes that several
obstacles, from pedestrians to animals, can make for risky situations.
Further, most cities still haven't solved the problem of making urban
routes compatible for bicycles, whether traditional or electric.
But city councils ought to do the work of figuring out how to make room for the enhancements. For cities
striving to create sustainable communities, the e-bike would seem more friend than foe.