E-Bikes: Awesome or Awful?
Joseph Rose over at the Oregonian just published a blog post called, “Pedaling Purity: PDXebiker’s e-boost makes him an outcast” and I’m so very glad he did. Though the comments section has degenerated into the usual spit and vitriol, I think this is a fascinating conversation (and I trust readership here to maintain a slightly higher level of civility – hint, hint).
There’s also an extensive discussion of the topic on Bike Portland – here.
I’ve been mulling over the e-bike issue for over a year now.
Are they bikes? Does it matter if they pass me going up a hill using their assist? Do I care? Do I like them? Does it matter?
E-bike PR reps have been hounding me for a while to write about them. Here was my initial internal reaction to that: I write about cycling culture and the essence of the sport. E-bikes have nothing to do with either so why I am I receiving this email?
I went to an e-bike event at a First Friday a few months ago. When I walked in I saw absolutely no one from the cycling community.
The e-bikes were lined up next to Nutcase helmets, which seemed odd. The showroom was immaculate and bright – filled with very beautiful people many of whom were wearing stilettos.
This is just an observation. I’m not sure what it all means (which is why I’m asking you all for your opinion) but I found it disturbing, disconcerting and uneasy.
My gut feeling was that I’m just not sure they will every be accepted by cycling purists. And don’t get me wrong. Stating the e-bikes aren’t “accepted” by cycling culture is not the same as saying I don’t accept them, think they serve a great purpose, or might become the wave of the green transportation future.
If I rode e-bikes my response to a rejection by so-called “cycling culture” would be, “Who cares?”
Seriously. Who cares if snotty or even un-snotty but righteous cyclists won’t let you in their club?
And I’m not quite sure I understand why e-bike manufacturers are trying so hard to break in with the “cycling world”. I think there is a terrific use-case for e-bikes, I think there is a huge market. I do not think it makes sense to spend millions of marketing dollars trying to win over a bunch of purists.
That’s not the e-bike target market. And it shouldn’t be.
Maybe they’re worried about dispelling stigma. I say screw the stigma. Don’t sell e-bikes to people who don’t want to be sold them. Let us complain (if we’re complaining) about sharing our cycling infrastructure with partially motorized vehicles. Let us whine about getting passed while we’re climbing. Go sell these bikes to your demographic – they are ready to buy them. I want desperately to buy one for my Mom, to be honest with you, but will have to wait until they don’t cost so much.
I say if it takes a car off the road, I’m all for it. If it gets my Mom confident enough to be able to ride around her small town without having to worry about pushing a bike up the last hill to her cabin, I’m all for it.
Are they bikes?
I don’t care. I don’t care at all.
I hope we can find a way to play nice (from a planning, transpo and culture point of view) with these strange, new ‘tweeners.