Electric bicycles are popular in Europe and Asia, and are only now gaining popularity in the United States. As gas prices continue to increase, and with more people tightening their belts, folks are looking for cheaper and greener modes of transportation. Especially in bike-friendly cities like Portland, Ore. and New York City, e-bikes are becoming that transportation of choice.
An electric bicycle, also called e-bikes, are essentially bicycles with an electric motor attached. They are not to be confused with mopeds or scooters, because e-bikes are classified as bicycles. This means that unlike mopeds and scooters, e-bikes can be ridden on sidewalks, and don’t require a special license or insurance to ride. A e-bike could be a regular bike that has a do-it-yourself motor attached, or it could be one that’s already purchased with a motor, from popular dealers such as Pedego or Electric Star.
Another key difference between electric bikes and scooters is that with an electric bike, you still have to pedal. Although there’s an electric motor, it’s only there to assist. This means that on an electric bike, the rider can still get exercise. In fact, the rider might even get more exercise with an electric bike than with a regular bike, since the motor makes it that much easier and that much more fun to ride. Therefore, the rider will ride more often and for longer periods of time, as in the case of Andrew Gondzur of St. Louis. Prior to modifying his bike with an electric motor, he only rode about four times a year. With the motor, he now rides four days a week.
It may seem that electric bikes aren’t as green as regular bikes. After all, you do have to use electricity and fossil fuels to recharge them. However, the big plus with electric bike is that they open up the biking market to those who wouldn’t normally use a regular bike, such as older folks or people with health problems that don’t have the physicality or stamina for a regular bike. Without electric bikes, those folks would opt for driving. So, with electric bikes, these people are able to cut down on the use of gasoline.
In fact, biking just four miles a day for four days a week can save 54 gallons of gas for the year. Might not seem like a lot, the more people that ride electric bikes, those 54 gallons will add up to more money in people’s wallets and less congestion and pollution. Those who ride regular bikes may scoff at those who need an electric-assist, but if that’s what it takes to get more people of the rode and on two wheels, then why not encourage it?
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