Is My Electric Bicycle Lame?


I'll always remember the time that I was riding my electric bicycle home from work, when at a red light, a cyclist on a traditional road bike pulled up next to me and asked me how fast I could go on "that thing". I told him that it maxes out at about 18 miles an hour. He scoffed, "Geez, I could ride faster than that without a motor!", as he then took off through the red light riding as fast as he could definitely more than 20 miles an hour to his credit.I have had similar responses from other cyclists as they implied laziness on my part. It is true that their choice of transit was more earth friendly and provided better exercise than mine, however, I was not too far behind in efficiency. An electric bicycle is about 100 times more efficient than a car carrying one person and has no source emissions. Unlike a scooter, it is also allowed in bicycle lanes and anywhere else a regular bicycle is allowed. In most municipalities, the regulations state that electric bicycles can not exceed 20 miles per hour in order to be able to use bicycle infrastructure. Anyhow, I certainly wasn't trying to claim that my electric assisted two wheeled vehicle was anything more than a practical solution for my particular circumstance at the time.

I decided to purchase an electric bicycle when I had a summer job taking notes in the alternative transportation department during the state legislative sessions in Austin, TX. It was during a summer where there were over forty 100+ degree days in a row. I started off the summer riding my regular non-motorized road bike up the giant hill to the capital building. Being that I had to wear a suit and tie, my sweat almost gave me hypothermia due to the unnatural and artificial arctic conditions inside the capital building, where the legislative sessions were being held. Not only were there no showers for cyclists, but there weren't even bicycle racks! This is when I decided to invest in an electric bicycle, as I surely wasn't going to drive a car to the alternative transit sessions. The electric bicycle really did pull me right up that hill with no huffing and puffing whatsoever. And the resulting breeze helped to keep me cool on the days when even the mornings started out in the 90's.

But the judgements continued...

I once had the electric bicycle tuned at a bicycle shop and when the guy at the counter discovered that my bicycle had a motor, he rolled his eyes and said, "Do you really feel like you need a motor to help you pedal?" I told him that I considered it to be my vehicle and that I use it for my daily commute. He rolled his eyes again. He was much friendlier to the couple who stopped in to pick up their recreational road bikes which they had serviced. I know that they were recreational because when they left the store, they put both bikes on their SUV's bicycle rack and sped off. I left the store with my only vehicle at the time, my electric assisted bicycle.

I no longer have my electric bicycle, but I would consider purchasing another one if I was faced with a work situation that demanded me to show up in a suit on a 100 degree day.

What do YOU think? Are electric personal mobility vehicles considered a novelty or a viable and recognized form of transportation? If you use a PMV, please share your experience.

Further Reading:

How to Go Green: Tech & Transport
Are Electric Bikes Still Controversial? Should They Go Wherever Bikes Can Go?
Warm Showers: Couch Surfing for Bicyclists

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