3 Things Are Needed for the E-Bike Revolution

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Screen capture Tweet about e-bikes. Tweet about e-bikes

Good affordable bikes, safe places to ride, and secure places to park.

After writing Study finds that e-bike riders get as much exercise as riders of regular bikes I posted it on Twitter and got the biggest response I have ever had to a tweet, with 1400 likes, 524 retweets and counting. There were many wonderful confirmations of my thesis, that people with e-bikes ride farther and more often.

But it also became clear that there is some resistance to getting out of cars and onto e-bikes.

People need safe and separated places to ride.

Perhaps the biggest one is the lack of safe bike infrastructure. In most North American cities, bike lanes are substandard if they exist at all, often just painted lines in the door zone, used as Fedex Lanes or parking lanes, and rarely enforced.

Many people do not feel safe "sharing" the road with cars, and honestly, after seeing the video of the recent crash in Brooklyn, I can't blame them.

Maisoneuve bike lane

Lloyd Alter/ Maisoneuve bike lane/CC BY 2.0

If we are going to get people to feel comfortable and safe on bikes, we need a big investment in separate, protected bike infrastructure. After seeing that video, we probably need a reinforced concrete wall, not a curb, separating them. We could afford it, too, if governments cared and would get their priorities straight.

But it seems that nobody in North America is really serious about the climate crisis. Nobody wants to give up space for bike lanes, so we have a fight on our hands for every foot or meter of bike lanes anywhere in North America.

People need a secure place to park.

This is indeed an issue. In Denmark or the Netherlands, people are comfortable just using the wheel lock that comes with the bike. In the Netherlands they also often have access to vast parking structures for bikes like this one:

Houten Station Bike Parking

Houten Station Bike Parking/ Jarrett M on Flickr/CC BY 2.0

In Toronto, where bike theft is a huge problem for everyone but the police, I use a minimum of two locks and often three; the combined price of the two that I bought is more than some people pay for entire bikes. Some suggest that all these bikes should have GPS trackers but I don't see what good that would do; I am not going to try and recover my own bike and the cops aren't going to do it for me.

Cities spend many millions on parking garages for cars; they should spend a fraction of that on secure, monitored bike storage. Zoning bylaws should also make secure bike storage mandatory in all buildings. As I noted in an earlier post on shipping containers used as bike storage:

Nobody I know with a Cevelo road bike leaves it chained to a post in the middle of the city (they keep a junker bike for that), but lots of people have e-bikes now that cost as much. That's why secure bike parking and storage is really going to be the third leg of the stool that will make the e-bike revolution happen: good bikes, good bike lanes, and a safe, secure place to park.

But there were also so many wonderful, positive comments from people who said e-bikes have changed the way they get around, that they haven't replaced their bikes but in fact replaced their cars. This really could be a revolution where e-bikes will eat cars. I would include more, but Twitter has changed their website so that they are hard to embed without repeating my tweet every time. So I will end with a typical comment: