Battling the Bias Against E-Bikes

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Many larger cities across America are trying to figure out how to best deal with electric bikes. Should they be classified as motorcycles? Should they be banned from bike paths? Are they dangerous? Are electric bikes good for the environment?

Well, I can answer that last question very easily. Yes, you can get an excellent workout from an electric bike. Most have different levels of pedal assist and some can be ridden without any assistance from the motor.

Is riding an electric bike cheating compared to a regular bicycle? I don’t think so. I think it’s smart! And for many people with health conditions that would have difficulty riding a non-motorized bicycle, it allows them to get outdoors and get a good workout without overdoing it.

I ride much longer distances on an e-bike than I would with a regular bicycle. Being able to explore new areas and be outdoors in nature longer is good for the heart, mind and soul.

With an electric bike I have the security of knowing that if my heart starts acting up (I have a funky heart that does that sometimes) I can rely on the bike to get me back home.





And if you’re going to use an e-bike for your daily commuter to work, you’re going to benefit from exercise and just the mental benefits of being outdoors.

As a natural resources major, I’ve studied the health benefits nature can bring. They’re real.

And as far as how good a workout I get, my heart rate still gets up there, I burn a good amount of calories, and work a good amount of muscles.

Electric bikes don’t do all the work. Most of different levels of pedal assist and most riders are using the lower levels so that they can still get a workout and also conserve the battery.

Yes, I could ride my electric bike just using the throttle but the battery last long and yeah, I’d feel like a cheater.

Also, I can actually cheat more on my regular bike than my e-bike because my lightweight non-motorized bike can coast for long distances. With a heavier e-bike, you pretty much have to peddle constantly unless you’re going downhill.

It’s also easier, almost effortless, to take off on a lightweight bike. It took quite a bit of practice to get good at taking off from a dead stop on my e-bike because it’s heavier and motorized. It requires more muscle power and balancing skills to take off without wiping out.





Should electric bikes be classified as motorcycles? Well, yes they are motorized bikes so technically they are motorcycles but most people when they think of motorcycles they’re thinking Harley and lots of speed. States are thinking driver’s licenses and liability insurance.

Different states have different laws regarding electric bicycles, so you’ll want to check with yours. Also, cities can enact ordinances that you’ll want to learn about.

Most states don’t require a driver’s license or liability insurance for an electric bike but again check with the state you live in. Generally, e-bikes that do not exceed 20 mph and 750 watt motors aren’t classified as motorcycles in the classic sense.

You don’t have to get a license for them. I would recommend adding an electric bike to your homeowners insurance or purchasing separate insurance because most e-bikes aren’t cheap. Also, it might be a good idea to have some liability insurance. You never know.

Having ridden an electric bike I wouldn’t classify them as motorcycles because honestly I can go just as fast on my regular bicycle. It’s not that hard to hit 20 mph on a bike, especially when going downhill.

An advantage that most electric bikes have however is that they are equipped with good braking systems. These aren’t you’re standard clamp brake systems on a regular bike.

When braking on my electric bike I feel like I have more control over the bike because it’s a smooth braking system. With regular bikes, if brakes aren’t adjusted properly, or you’re riding in wet conditions, they can be less reliable and herky jerky. I don’t get that sensation on my e-bike. I can slow down or stop quickly on it, so that’s a safety advantage it has.

Of course this leads me to the question of whether electric bikes are dangerous. Are they more dangerous for the rider compared to riding a regular bicycle? Are they more dangerous to pedestrians?

I have to admit that it takes some different training and experience to handling an e-bike. As I already discussed, taking off takes getting used to but taking corners using pedal assist also requires some skill.

Actually, the first ride I took on my electric bike was almost my last one. I received my bike on a stormy spring day and was eager to just take it for a quick spin around the block before the approaching thunderstorm arrived.

I could hear the thunder in the distance but it seemed a safe distance away, especially for a 3-minute ride around the block.

Well, as I was about a quarter mile from my house, lightning sizzled through the air above me and a thundering crash, like a garage door slamming onto concrete immediately followed.

My heart skipped few beats and I put the e-bike into the highest level of pedal assist and used the full throttle. It got me home very quickly but as I was riding up my driveway, which is on a slight incline, I gave the pedal a half spin to get into the garage, as I always did with my regular bike but…

I forgot it was still in the highest pedal assist level and that little half spin about sent me and my bike into my husband’s lawn business’s trailer. I wasn’t expecting the sudden burst of speed and power.

I kind just planted my feet on the ground instead of using the brakes and about broke my ankle off.

Of course, my husband and son had been watching the whole time on the front porch and got a good laugh.

Well, my first lesson was in the books. Remember what level of pedal assist you’re in and don’t go riding in thunderstorm!

Despite my little silly story, any type of bicycle can be dangerous. You just have to learn how to ride them and use common sense. The electric bike isn’t more dangerous because believe me I’ve wiped out on a regular bicycle more than once.

I’ve gone over the handlebars on a regular bicycle. This was when I was a teenager and my friend and I were racing down a hill. I was standing on the pedals but one fell off and well you can probably imagine the rest. I had major road burn on my side and back.

Personally, I think I ride more cautiously on the e-bike because I do recognize that it’s heavier and is motorized. I can’t control it the same way I can a lightweight bicycle.

Whether an electric bike is more dangerous really depends on the rider. If you use common sense, they’re probably not any more dangerous to the rider than a standard bicycle.

Now if you hit a pedestrian with one, due to their weight, yes they can certainly cause greater injuries and that’s another reason why I’m more cautious on it.

But then again electric bikes usually have superior braking to slow down and stop.

The bike path in my city does have a posted sign that motorized vehicles are prohibited but does that mean electric bikes? Electric bikes are rare in my city so I doubt that’s what they had in mind but I don’t think e-bikes should be banned because I don’t feel they’re any more dangerous than regular bicycles as long as the top speed doesn’t exceed 20 mph because again I can go that fast on a non-motorized bike and I’ve had non-motorized bikes nearly run me over as a pedestrian.

If you want to regulate anything. Make bike riders liable for riding in a stupid fashion. It’s not the bike; it’s the rider.

Now are electric bikes good for the environment? That’s an important question because many cities and states would like to get more cars off the road. Standard combustion engines produce toxic emissions and greenhouse gasses.

Getting oil out of the ground, transported, refined into gasoline, transported to filling stations is extremely energy intensive and leaves an enormous carbon footprint. That’s before the gas has even been pumped into a car’s gas tank.

2019 Rad Mini Step-Thru

RadCity Step-Thru Electric Commuter Bicycle
RadCity Step-Thru Electric Commuter Bicycle, also available in white.

It requires much fewer metals and plastics to produce a bicycle over an automobile. Electric bikes don’t tear up highways like cars do. Repairing highways requires heavy equipment that are some of the most polluting machines out there.

Now it’s not all good news regarding electric bikes. Proper disposal or recycling of lithium ion batteries is important. Also, electric bikes have to be charged by electricity. There are some environmental concerns but overall the carbon footprint of an e-bike compared to a gasoline burning vehicle is much, much smaller.

I’d also add that because electric bikes make bicycling more feasible, fun, and practical to riders that otherwise wouldn’t ride a non-motorized bicycle, they’re getting more people outdoors.

When you get people outdoors they tend to notice their community more, the environment more, the livability of their community more, the safety of their community more, their health more, wildlife more, etc.

Driving down an Interstate in a car isn’t nearly the same experience as riding on a beautiful trail through forests and meadows. People are going to notice the flowers, the trees, the birds, the bees (it rhymed so I couldn’t help it); mostly, the greatest environmental benefit of electric bikes is that they get more people out into their natural environment.

You see polluted streams, as I do along the bike path in my city. Seeing plastic waste in the waters makes the idea of banning or using less of plastic bottles not so kooky afterall.

There’s continued debate about electric bikes but I see a lot of benefits from them. Cities should tackle the issue with care. And if you’re going to enact legislation and ordinances on electric bike, you should probably ride one first to know what you’re really voting on.

And if you’re an electric bike fan like me, be courteous around pedestrians and other bicyclists. There’s always been a bias against motorcyclists. They’re seen as a symbol of rebellion when in reality it’s mostly grandpas and grandmas just wanting to go out and breathe the air.

Most electric bike riders are just people wanting to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise. Those are good things that we don’t want to restrict.