Weekender Ride

Is Portland (and America) ready for e-bikes?

Posted by on January 29th, 2010 at 10:45 am

Kalkhoff E-bikes-4

A happy e-bike owner leaves
Kalkhoff Bikes in the Pearl District.
(Photo by Adams Carroll)

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a new hybrid electric bike from Sanyo stole the show. The Eneloop model made lots of headlines (Treehugger called it a “game-changer” and it even made it’s way into the Business section of the New York Times), leading reasonable people to wonder — could 2010 be the year of the e-bike in America?

Given that bike product trends often start here (dutch city and cargo bikes and Electra’s Ticino to name a few), it will be interesting to see if Portland becomes the first U.S. city to embrace e-bikes.

Last week, Sanyo’s North American Business Development Manager Alex Kelley was in Portland to show off the Eneloop. He was also in town to scout locations for solar charging stations they plan to install in Portland in the coming months. Acknowledging that e-bikes have their detractors, Kelley wrote me via email: “I know that e-bikes aren’t a product for everyone, but we feel that anything that helps get people out of their cars and onto the bike paths is a good thing.”

“My best customers are folks who live thoughtfully and can easily understand how an electric bicycle can help them live their values more fully.”
— Wakefield Gregg, owner of The eBike Store

Portland saw the opening of two electric bike retail outlets in 2009. Wakefield Gregg opened The eBike Store last spring and German-made Kalkhoff Bikes opened up a U.S. distribution and retail outlet in the Pearl District.

According to The eBike Store owner Wakefield Gregg, consumers might gain awareness of e-bikes in 2010, but we’re not quite at the “tipping point” stage yet. “Only a small percentage of folks will see how an e-bike could fit their lifestyle and be willing to commit to purchasing a $1100-$4000 bike.”

The eBike Store on opening day-102

Inside The eBike Store
in North Portland.

Greg tells me his business (which isn’t even a year old yet) has been steady. “Between bike sales, bike conversions and service work, we have been Top Ramen profitable every month except November.”

As for the buzz and excitement around e-bikes, Greg says he’d rather avoid the hype:

“This may sound funny, but I don’t like to sell e-bikes to folks who are excited. I know it goes against every sales book ever written, but my best customers are folks who live thoughtfully and can easily understand how an electric bicycle can help them live their values more fully.”

Industry leaders like Trek and Giant have invested heavily in the e-bike market, battery technology is improving rapidly, and the entry of a global electronics juggernaut like Sanyo will help drive down prices. But there are still barriers to e-bikes cracking the American market.

Trek’s new “Ride+”.

Because bike culture in America (for better or worse) is rooted in Lance-type performance and speed, and not utility like most other countries, e-bikes suffer from an image problem. “They’re not bikes!” is a common refrain from dyed-in-the-wool riders. There almost seems to be a stigma to having a motor help you out. As if it’s an assault on the purity of the bicycle that has helped stoke the fixed-gear bike craze.

Beyond image, there are concerns of how these new-fangled machines will mix with old-school pedal pushers in bike lanes.

State law currently limits “electric assisted bicycles” to 20 mph, which is easy to do with a conventional bike, but still pretty fast for dense urban riding conditions (regular speeds downtown are 12-15 mph). According to Oregon statute, an electric assisted bike is considered a bicycle, unless specifically noted otherwise. Oregon law also states that e-bikes must have fully operational pedals for human propulsion and a motor with output not greater than 1,000 watts.

A bill introduced in Salem in 2009, Senate Bill 420, sought to incrase the speed limit for electric assisted bikes to 35 mph and allow motors up to 5 horsepower (about 3,800 watts).

The eBike Store owner Gregg opposed the legislation, saying electric mopeds are fine and all, “But don’t call them e-bikes or let them into the bike lanes where they could injure others.” Ultimately, the bill died in committee before even being voted on.

Another barrier for e-bikes is that the type of people they’re marketed to are precisely the folks who feel riding a bike is too dangerous. Our current lack of a connected, separated, and comfortable bike network makes many people afraid to even try biking — and simply giving them a motor won’t change their mind.

Love them or hate them, electric bikes are here to stay. As designs and technology improve and cost comes down, the stigma will likely wash away and someday we’ll wonder how we ever got around without them. And besides, wouldn’t you rather share the road with an electric bike instead of an electric car?

What do you think about electric bikes? Will 2010 be the year of the e-bike in America?

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Kathleen McDade January 29, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I don’t know that they’ll catch on THAT quickly! As far as the price barrier goes — I think the trick is to sell people on bikes, either e-bikes or non-motorized bikes, as a car replacement. Not necessarily to the point of being car-free, but at least as a replacement for the second and third cars used by many couples and families.

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  • are January 29, 2010 at 10:56 am

    i absolutely do not want these in bike lanes. on the other hand, i don’t really want bike lanes. but if we have them, anything with a motor should stay out.

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  • steve pappert January 29, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I rode one of the electric bikes that bike and hike had a year ago. It was a blast to ride, but a bitch to move around. Even picking it up a curb was a chore. I would hate to ride it any distance if the batteries were dead.

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  • Dave January 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

    My initial reaction is that I would prefer they not mingle with regular bikes – but from experience, the people I’ve seen riding bikes with electric assist have done so in a way to merge well with other bike traffic. Just because a bicycle *can* go 20mph doesn’t mean it *always* goes 20mph.

    I think for people who have to go longer distances or people who have physical restraints that keep them from riding a standard bicycle, or who regularly do (or would do) things like carry two kids plus groceries on a bike, electronic assists could be a tipping point – while they are using electricity, the overall energy consumption compared to a personal automobile is so small as to be almost non-existent.

    I am glad that Oregon law stipulates that they have to have working pedals, they can’t just be low-powered motor scooters.

    I agree, electric assists are never going to be for everyone, but I think they may fill a valid niche in Portland, and America.

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  • pdxebiker January 29, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I completely switched my NE-downtown commute from car to ebike almost a year ago, and am loving it. I still ride my bike regularly, but the ebike really makes the difference between fair-weather and year-round commuter for me – I haven’t commuted by car since. Saving alot on gas and parking is a nice extra, too. I’m ‘one less car’, too.

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  • Anne Hawley January 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I’ve lost count of the number of people who, on hearing that I started riding a bike to work every day at age 53, say “I’d love to do that, but it’s too hilly where I live. I wouldn’t be able to get off my own street!”

    Electric-assist bikes could be the change point for these folks.

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  • Memo January 29, 2010 at 11:32 am

    heheh, many places in China are thinking about or outright banning e-bikes because they can be such a terror -http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703657604575005140241751852.html

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  • Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie January 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

    My sons are my “motor” assist sometimes. – sometimes they’re my dead batteries. But to the point at hand, if a motor assist gets people commuting by bike, experiencing the bicycle as a transportation option and if they pedal for some/much of the ride – I throw no stones at the ebike industry.

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  • Jackattak January 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Memo, China’s population is insanely dense. Everything is a terror over there (even regular cyclists). There’s billions of humans everywhere (literally).

    On topic, these seem pretty cool! I think if they’re regulated properly (which seems like that is going in the right direction so far), these could certainly fill a niche.

    Now, about the price…no way in hell I’m paying that much. I’d buy a motorcycle over one of these in a heartbeat and have a fully highway-legal ride for my money (which I have zero interest in…just sayin’).

    Yes, I do realize that some bicycles are nearly twice as much. And I laugh at those, too.

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  • AaronF January 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I don’t want an e-bike, but I don’t mind being passed in the bike lane by one.

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  • Shelley January 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Can’t resist commenting on this one. The WSJ article shows pictures of all sorts of electric scooters. They don’t even look like the local E-Bikes.

    At a group ride in Portland last year I met a very nice 70 yr old lady. She commutes from her home in SE to Vancouver year round on the 205 bike path. I didn’t even notice her bike had electric assist until we hit the hill and I heard the motor click on. She apoligized for “cheating” but said her arthritis would prevent her from riding 25+ miles every day without it. I hope I get to ride one when I am her age.

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  • Mike on Alberta January 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    e-bikes are a bad idea. Have you ever seen a bike riding against traffic up a hill at 30mph weaving through lanes? I have, and the idiot was on an ebike. They’ve been in NYC’s Chinatown for a few years, and I have to agree with the WSJ article that they are a menace.

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  • John C January 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I subscribe to a nice little magazine from England called A to B. While I am not interested in owning an eBike, I am never the less fascinated by them. Over the years the magazine has tested several eBike models and has commented on the practical use of these machines in dense urban environments, and serves as good reading for what we can expect if the trend grows. I am all for it, if it gets more people on bikes and out of their cars.

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  • Stig3 January 29, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I’ve seen more motor scooters, ‘pocket bikes’ and lawn mower engined bikes in bikes lanes and off-street paths than ebikes.

    Portland has many hills and 2/3rd’s of Americans are overweight or obese. So for some an ebike allows them to start cycling and commuting and get up hills with the extra help they need. These folks don’t care their bike weighs 30lbs with the motor+battery and aren’t likely to be passing the Lance types.

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  • Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    A$$holes are A$$holes
    These idjits you’re worried about having e-bikes will drive or ride in the same dangerous way no matter what they are riding or driving.

    Why no give them a smaller weapon for the expected vehicular homicide?

    Why not revoke their car driver’s license and make them license an e-bike?

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  • h January 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I wonder how long battery time lasts before recharge.

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  • A.K. January 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I have to look past my personal distaste for e-bikes and say if they help people who would otherwise not ride bikes, then more power to them.

    To me, part of why I bike is to break personal records and push myself, getting in better shape, and having the side benefit of good, clean, fast transportation. I love to bike a certain route, then say “how can I do it faster next time”, or bike 40 miles in a few hours, and tell myself next time I’ll do 45. Having electronics and a motor help me is cheating and seems personally unappealing. I want to accomplish things on bikes that lazy, non-cyclists can’t or won’t do, to be honest.

    I feel that e-bikes take away some of that, but people who ride e-bikes probably aren’t looking for that to begin with.

    Experiencing Portland by bicycle is GREAT, much different than a car, and you actually feel like you’re connected to the community more. If e-bikes can bring that to more people, great! They can also help to break the strangle-hold that cars have on simple, neighborhood trips (to the grocery store for example), that can be easily done by bicycle but may seem intimidating for people who don’t cycle often.

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  • Paul January 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Most of those e-bike they’re having problems with in China and NYC are not so much the low-powered pedal-assist kind. They are electric scooters that go around 35 mph. The real e-bikes just make it easier to pedal, they don’t go very fast at all.

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  • Emma J January 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I concur with the overall consensus here. I would hate to see the bike lane full of ebikes. But I’d love to see a few less cars and their drivers pedaling as much as they are able out in the fresh air.

    I would never want one myself – unless it was the only way I could bike at all.

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  • Brad January 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    It’s all good until e-bike users begin scaring regular riders by passing “too fast and too close” in bike lanes and on bridges (like the Lance wannabes). Worse, a handful of real bike riders get mowed down pulling away from a green light by an e-bike rider shoaling them at high speed.

    Let the fun begin!

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  • Dave January 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I agree with Anonymous – I don’t think the case of someone riding an eBike against traffic uphill weaving in and out of traffic is saying something inherently bad about an eBike, sounds like an inherently stupid person riding it. I agree, give them something that will minimize the effect of their reckless behavior, which they would still be doing no matter their means of transportation.

    Most people are just looking to get from one place to another in the easiest and most convenient way they can. If an electric assist bicycle can push the bicycle above the car for someone in that regard, awesome.

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  • […] complete article at Bike Portland: Is Portland (and America) ready for e-bikes?Related NewsIntroducing Portland’s eBike StoreElectric Bike Manufacturers: Japan Bookmark It […]

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  • Larey January 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I don’t like the idea of an ebike whizzing past me going 18-20mph on the bike path, much as pedestrians dislike urban assault cyclists whizzing by them going 12-16mph on the MUP.

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  • Joe Adamski January 29, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I have no issues with E-bikes,the electric assisted bikes that top out at 20 mph. I expect it will bring legions of new riders out on the streets, and remove one more barrier to leaving the car at home. Providing assist to make a longer or hillier commute possible will encourage more riders. Remember, those on e-bikes will be as vulnerable as anyone on a conventional bike. I expect e-cyclists will be more our bretheren than problems.
    The electric ASSIST as opposed to electric POWERED is the key.
    Another thing I hope is that some of those who used their e-bike as a ‘gateway’ to transportation cycling will find that a conventional cycle is not so difficult after the cost of replacement or maintenance of that ebike becomes an issue.

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  • jv January 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I worked for an e-bike store in Seattle for a summer over 6 years ago. Since then, I have to say that I am very glad to see the evolution of e-bikes to be lighter, practical, stylish machines. Especially in Seattle where the hills can be a major barrier to entry for cycle commuters, the buyers of the e-bikes were mostly replacing their daily car commute or errand running.

    People who operate vehicles in an irresponsible manner will always be with us, regardless of what machine they are using. I think the benefits of getting people to consider biking to work far outweigh the potential for bike-lane rage…

    I especially welcome the integration of electric assist with cargo bikes (ie. Senkai Motorworks) that makes for practical delivery vehicles.

    For those that see the price tag as excessive, there are conversion kits available to turn your favorite second bike into an e-bike. I think we will see many more ebikes and I welcome it…

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  • David Feldman January 29, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    1. They’ll replace some car trips
    2. They have a lot of mechanical, non-electric parts that will need bike mechanics’ time to fix. I like both of those facts.

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  • Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I don’t have a problem with it as long as the source of the energy is clean. I think the idea of having solar recharging stations is great. Battery life and recharge time will be important issues for this product. And I’m guessing the battery life depends on the terrain, which might make it tough to predict trip range.

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  • Burk January 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I would love to have a cargo e-bike. Use the motor to help on the hills and get you going on the flats. You could haul some monster loads with something like that.

    I”m always carrying big cases around town and I usually end up using my truck. The main thing that’s keeping me from the cargo bike is the cost and the weight.

    A little motor assist on a cargo bike would really get my interest.

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  • A.K. January 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Anonymous #27:

    Even without “clean” energy, charging an e-bike to make a trip from an outlet is far more energy-efficient on a macro scale than the same trip made via car.

    From my understanding of energy as a non-technical industry outsider, one giant source of pollution (say a power plant), is going to be cleaner and easier to manage than hundreds of thousands of smaller, individual sources (cars).

    To charge the type of battery that an e-bike would use, I doubt it would take much more electricity than what a computer would draw.

    Also, my gut feeling is the e-bike crowd is going to be largely made up of people who would otherwise be taking a car.

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  • middle of the road guy January 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I can’t wait for the articles about accidents in the bike lanes caused by these things.

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  • eli bishop January 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    “it’s too hilly where I live. I wouldn’t be able to get off my own street!”

    “the ebike really makes the difference between fair-weather and year-round commuter for me”

    “Just because a bicycle *can* go 20mph doesn’t mean it *always* goes 20mph.”

    yes, yes, and YES! ebikes are what enabled me to move from admiring bicycles to actually -riding- them. and greg at the ebike store was -wonderful-.

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  • Bill January 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Portland has had e-bike races at PIR for the past two years. On Memorial Day the e-Power Challenge is held.

    ” The e-Power Challenge was The ePower Challenge was the first formal electric assist bike race in the USA! This event was created to have a racing venue for the e-assist category of human power vehicles, one of the most expanding and dynamic segments of the cycling industry.”

    ePower Challenge

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  • Bill January 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I forgot to mention that there were e-assist racers traveling from as far away as California and Colorado to partake in the ePower Challenge.

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  • N.I.K. January 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    The people I’ve seen most readily embrace electric-assist bicycles are people who’ve already been riding for a while but have various concerns about making it out and back – iffy knees, less time to keep fit than before, that sort of thing. And that’s a great fit.

    Another good fit: people who haul heavy stuff. Potential example: the cycling-a-while couple who decide to pop out a kid or two and want to be able to manage to keep it reliably carless on days with nasty headwinds and the like. Drop the kid at daycare, get to work without dropping dead from exhaustion, ’nuff said.

    I’ve found it a much harder sell to everyone else. People already bicycling tend to look at them as a niche thing that doesn’t fit any particular use case of theirs. People not already bicycling look at them as though they’re crazy toys for the weekend. The fact that they can spend about 1/4 as much on a middle-of-the-road fitness hybrid and face less consequence if it goes up in the garage for 320+ days a year.

    That said, I’d *love* to see these catch on with the on-the-fencers in Portland, because then there’d be actual success stories. From there, the marketing writes itself, they start catching on in other places, demand increases lead to increased production lead to lower sticker price, and then you’ve got a winner for a number of communities. It’s no Grail to be sure, but it’s got potential to get people out of their cars, and that’s great.

    Funny side-note: Giant’s marketing materials for their electric-assist (the Twist Freedom, IIRC) refer to them as “hybrid bicycles”. Confusion abounds! 🙂

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  • q`Tzal January 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    #23 & #30
    We already have “accidents” in the bike lane where human power cyclists are injured or killed by faster moving objects. They are called Automobiles. At least with e-bikes the the bad driver won’t be hitting and running.

    #27 Clean energy
    If you want to get all technical the human engine is less efficient at converting fuel(food) to mechanical energy than an electric motor. The production of food with anything other than sunlight and rain water consumes more resources. That being said most Americans consume more fuel than they burn.

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  • MABman January 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Good to see some awareness within the Portland cycling community about motor assist. As usual there are those for and those against and those that have no idea what the heck is going on!

    The popularity of e bikes in the EU, especially in Germany and the Netherlands closely parallels their ongoing interest in fuel efficient vehicles that have been in use there for years while remaining unavailable here. However the restrictions that they have that limit the wattage to 250W (1/4 hp) really makes it a toss up whether the extra weight of the battery and motor can make them a good choice over a regular bike, but due to the numbers that are being sold over there I would have to say there is something to it. The main thing is that there seems to be little trouble there with them integrating in to the flow of regular bicycle traffic.

    While e bikes are not for everyone they can make a difference for those that want to carry heavy loads, have physical disabilities, or just want to get to work without a sweat as already stated. But a good assist system is also a safety feature for any urban rider in that it is so much easier to start from a stop and your window of opportunity to cross traffic widens appreciably because of this making negotiating traffic much easier without having to RUN stop signs which tends to piz off pretty much everyone around.

    But in order to make e-assist work minimum of 1 hp (750W) is best I have found. The extra hp is more about torque than speed. There is really no problem with the 20 mph top speed for urban travel but it is how long it takes to get you there that is the key, especially while loaded down as with a cargo/bakviet type situation. Voltage has much to do with this equation along with the amp hour rating of the battery. The laws here in OR are very favorable at 1000W for this type of application and when one is run at 48V it can be quite snappy off the line and up to speed comfortably yet still not be able to exceed the 20 mph barrier.

    I personally use a pusher trailer type that allows me to use any bicycle of my choosing. I have found that this makes for the best of both worlds. I still only need one bike and it is one that I am used to. The handling does not change dramatically when the pusher is attached. I can carry up to 60 lbs. cargo on the pusher, or Auxiliary Bicycle Utility Vehicle if you will, that is fine for my needs to replace my vehicle for 90% of my single person/single purpose urban transport needs. Yet I can disconnect in under a minute and only have a lightweight throttle and a bit of wire on the bike to be able to enjoy it in that form as I wish.

    So please consider the fact that e bikes are probably here to stay and are only going to get more popular. Coexist everyone:)

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  • ebike rider January 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

    I am an avid e-bike rider. It has gotten me out of the car for those longer trips (5-15 miles) that I would not have considered doing on a bike. I can even stretch the range out to 50 miles plus by using the throttle just for hills and starting out. The best e-bikes are converted regular bikes, with a little research you can get a good balance of weight vs power for your needs, and it can still be fun to pedal.

    I think that complaints against e-bikers usually come down to rider inexperience. In other words many ebikers may be getting on a bike for the first time in a long while, and don’t know some of the rules that long time bike riders do. A pleasant reminder may be all that is requiredbe in order.

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  • Michael M. January 30, 2010 at 10:47 am

    It sounds like, at the outset at least, the tricky part will be keeping the distinction (in the law and in the public mind) between eBikes and electric scooters. In that regard, I’m so glad Senate Bill 420 died, and I hope it stays dead. (Thanks for including that information in your article, Jonathan; I’d not heard of it.) Electric-assist bikes sound like a great option for many, and they sound sufficiently like regular bikes that they belong where bikes belong. Scooters or low-powered mopeds, while they could also be great options for many others, do not belong in bike lanes or on MUPs.

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  • Todd Boulanger January 30, 2010 at 10:57 am

    In my experience with fleet eBikes – they are a great ‘bridge vehicle’ for many non-bicyclists to attempt to adopt bike riding into their transportation mix. Many riders will soon experience that they can do most of their riding with simpler machines.

    Perhaps what is needed is an organized two to three month revolving eBike loan program for those who do not have hills, loads, or ability barriers – but need access to an eBike.

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  • Michael January 30, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I once desired a small motor scooter for riding about on non-bike days. Then I tried the electric Trek at Bike Gallery. Sweet! Having been biking for over 50 years it just felt right for the aging bones. Sticker shock and uncertainty about expensive battery replacement keeps me from buying.

    Traditionalist bikers may not like the new technology for many reasons. There will be some adjustments to what it means to ride a bike. That is OK. Whatever moves us toward fewer cars is good in the end.

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  • […] by Mark Young/Portland Storyboard – Concept and script by Jonathan Maus – Related story: In Portland (and America) ready for e-bikes? – See past cartoons […]

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  • greenerwheels January 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    I’ve been an advocate for ebikes for at least 10 years now, battery technology has been the big stumbling block as it has been for all electric vehicles. For me the enjoyment has been building them and the pride I get from riding them.
    I’ve been gathering the skills, tools and knowledge to gain a better understand of what works and what doesn’t. The links are to two of my current vehicles, I am currently working on two more one of which should be rolling latter next week
    The success or failure of ebikes will be due in a large part in delivering what is promised, unfortunately a large number of consumer ebikes are inexpensive Chinese junk, that potentially will leave the consumer disappointed.
    Wake’s comment ““This may sound funny, but I don’t like to sell e-bikes to folks who are excited.” in my opinion is just wrong, people need to get educated and not rely on a salesman to guide them into a product.
    If anyone has an ebike with a fairly new battery that would like to verify their battery capacity meets specifications, I would be glad to test their battery for free.



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  • sterling January 30, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    having been an advocate for ebikes for 11 years now, i understand exactly what it means to “not want to sell an ebike to folks who are excited.” If i can talk with a calm thoughtful customer then we have a way better chance of getting them on the right bike that will meet their needs, get used, and be a positive example for others. always be calm when spending 2G.



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  • Ray Owens January 31, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I’m 57 years old, a long time urban and cross country rider, and a long time corporate cube worker. I bought my first e-bike kit, a $500 Wilderness Energy lead-acid setup from Five Flags, about two years ago. After 100 + commuter trips of 15 hilly Cincinnati miles each way, I upgraded to my current $1000 lithium-ion setup e-bike from e-bikekit.com. Now my wife rides the Wilderness Energy rig, and I have the newer, more predictable setup. I’m the only peron in our entire outer-belt office part that regularly commutes to work by bike, and I don’t blame the others. That’s just how they are.
    As more shops open up with more ready-built options, we’ll see a lot more acceptance of e-bikes. In Cincinnati, as elsewhere, the challenge is adapting the infratructure away from motor-only with more conversions of 4-lane to 3-lane (turn-lane in the center), and better driver training. (FYI, I am an inveterate scoff-law and hard-core wild-rider with little use for the nicities of pc “civilization” and the religio-facist oppression of laws regulating such things as seatbelts, helmets, recreational drug use, bicycle operation, abortion, or morality. Those of you so mightily offended by the fools on the hills would do well to get your judgemental heads out of your colons. Your perspectives would benefit greatly from the change.)

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  • Jeremy P February 1, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Lots of feedback! Great to see so many people joining the discussion about e-bikes!

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  • Jay February 1, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I can understand people that don’t want ebikes in the same space as bikes and pedestrians. 20mph would certainly be an unsafe speed for both ebikes AND bikes in a busy urban path or bike lane, especially when you throw pedestrians into the mix.

    However, there are two factors that bring me to support ebikes.

    First, dangerous speeds and unsafe riding is an issue for regular bikes right now, today. As advocates of biking, we need to get our own house in order. Adding ebikes into the mix gives us more leverage to require more and better education of all road users police on safe and courteous road sharing.

    Second, anything that gets people out of 2 ton steel and glass high speed boxes and into the street as an engaged, low speed road user is a good thing.

    That said, I think we need to pay careful attention to how ebikes interact with bikes, pedestrians and cars. Perhaps we need to revise the laws to limit top ebike speeds to 15 mph. We also need to consider how kids, who’s judgment and coordination are not yet mature, are allowed to use ebikes (especially if they are capable of fast acceleration and 20 mph top speeds).

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  • Electric Bikes gaining traction in US February 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    […] Bike Europe – News: E-Bike Elected as 2010 Dutch Bike of the Year Is Portland ready for e-bikes? – BikePortland.org Blog Archive Is Portland (and America) ready for e-bikes? New York Times article about electric bikes. – Born in China, Electric Bikes Gain a Toehold in the […]

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  • Andy B from Jersey February 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm


    If Oregon passes a law allowing E-Bikes to go up to 35mph then, Oregon would be in violation of the Federal Consumer Product Safety promulgation which allows E-Bikes that can only go to 20mph to be considered in the same class as regular bicycles. State law can not supersede federal law.

    A vehicle that can go that fast should be considered in the same class as a moped or motorized scooter and should require a license, registration and possibly insurance.

    I’m all for such “ELECTRIC MOPEDS” as long as they are not considered to be in the same class as bicycles.

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  • MABman February 1, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    To those that are concerned about the 20 mph speeds attainable with motor assist bicycle you must realize that is not that fast? The average speed of the Tour de France last year was nearly 25 mph. In many bike lanes already cyclists are exceeding the 20 mph barrier, they just can’t do it uphill like an ebike can so what’s the big deal? It’s not the bike, it’s the rider.

    In fact my 1000W 48V OR maximum allowable motor size pusher trailer won’t go any faster than 20 mph under motor and due to the regen feature will only go about 24 mph max, even down steep hills. But it allows me to scoot across intersections and stop for stop signs and carry more cargo while doing so.

    I live in Astoria and am not sure how many of you are familiar with the terrain here but I can pedal/assist up every street in town, including 8th, and ride up to the Column regularly on my way home just to enjoy the view and can get anywhere in town as fast if not faster than I can by car. Even in the rain.

    I have only gotten smiles and good comments from pedestrians and other cyclists the last 10 years I have been riding motor assist because I ride with courtesy and respect for others.

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  • wsbob February 1, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    “To those that are concerned about the 20 mph speeds attainable with motor assist bicycle you must realize that is not that fast?” MABman

    Not fast? Except to the person climbing hills on their own power at..say…7mph, should an e-bike rider be so indiscreet as to pass them closely on a narrow bike lane at 20mph. I haven’t had such an experience, but imagine this might be an example of one that people have concerns about.

    Glad to hear your of your positive experiences using the e-bike in Astoria; a good model for other people thinking about getting one.

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  • leph February 2, 2010 at 6:49 am

    I’m a 55-year-old former roadie who’s ridden e-bikes for almost ten years strictly for sport and pleasure, and think the current (excuse the pun) 1000W Fed standard is a good one.

    The press needs to stop referring to e-scooters and mopeds ase-bikes–there’s a huge difference–and lumping them together simply perpetuates the confusion.

    IMO a “real” e-bike is a human/electric hybrid, i.e. you’re supposed to be pedaling with the motor, and on a good quality e-bike the blended power becomes almost seamless.

    OTOH the cheap Chinese electric scooters you see on eBay sometimes have a token set of pedals (usually just to try to skirt the law) but the fact is a lot of cops will pull you over in a skinny minute on these things–and for good reason, especially if you’re on a public highway going 30+ mph.

    I primarily ride quiet country roads, so not a city or bike lane type environment, but obviously caution and respect should be the order of the day in any congested scenario. We all need to get along, and e-bikers especially should ride with care around slower bikes.

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  • MABman February 2, 2010 at 8:37 am

    wsbob, in rereading my post as per your reply I didn’t really say what I wanted to in regards to uphill speed? My setup at the max allowable OR limit will not do any hills at 20, but for sure it will climb faster than a human alone powered one. I always give a ring whenever I approach a slower traveler, whether bike or ped and whether I am utilizing assist or not.

    Leph has it right, we all need to get along, and ebikers especially should ride with care around slower traffic in the lanes and on MUP’s. But getting that education in to the minds of the end users may take a bit but definitely needs to be addressed.

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  • bing February 26, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Ebike haters, you know what will happen to you some day? Your body will not be able to do what it does now. Maybe it’ll be a blown knee, illness, whatever. But your commute won’t necessarily change because of that. Why hate on an evolution that will let bike commuters STAY on their bikes? Oh, and if you think Ptown’s ebikes are “mopeds,” you need to actually check ’em out. Maybe you’ve been sharing the bike lane with some all along.

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  • […] asked us this week, Is Portland (and America) ready for e-bikes?  That does mean electric-assisted bikes, by the way, not some kind of online virtual bike (which […]

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  • […] the complete article at: Is Portland (and America) ready for e-bikes?Related NewsChina’s Ebike Growing PainsUrban Biking Concept BikesE-bikes Causing Traffic […]

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  • […] the best e-bike sales-and-service in Cascadia comes from one specialized e-bike store in Seattle, two in Portland, and two others in Vancouver, BC. One promising sign is that about one quarter of Trek’s […]

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  • […] There’s also an extensive discussion of the topic on Bike Portland – here. […]

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  • Danny July 8, 2010 at 10:52 am

    I am a 24 year old male. I have been biking to work and school most days for a long time, about a 4 mile trip round trip. I also bike around Portland most of the time. I also own a car. I used to use my car to commute sometimes in winter or when I didn’t want to arrive at my location sweaty (such as professional meetings). I am now converting a bike to an e-bike to use for longer trips and to get an idea for whether or not there is something to this whole e-bike thing. I am getting my bike converted for less than $300 total cost. I will likely also use it to haul my trailer, which will make me use a bike more to go to the store. Currently, I use the car if I have to carry more than about 20lbs of goods. With the new E-bike I can use my bike to haul all the groceries I can buy.

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