“I love my e-bike and the scooter mode is my lifeline when I ride.”
— Wendy Hemken
The article below comes from 32-year old Beaverton resident Wendy Hemken. Wendy is currently a student at Portland Community College and plans to study biochemistry/biophysics at Oregon State University.
I was reading through my Facebook today when I see a link about an e-assist skateboard with the title “One less e-bike” and so I quipped back “Hey! What’s wrong with e-bikes?” but I found that my irritation was not so quickly relieved. The fact of the matter is, I’m getting tired of the jibes, snarks, and grumblings about e-bikes from “real” cyclists. The complaint goes like this: Somehow by riding a bike with a motor we’re cheating.
My huband and I both use e-bikes as our primary commuting vehicle. He takes his e-assist Yuba Mundo loaded down with all his school supplies (including pounds of clay for his ceramics class), our three-year old, and all of her school supplies, and then bikes up and down hills to PCC Rock Creek. He gets to school efficiently and quickly without the expense or hassle of car, plus, even with the e-assist it helps him stay in shape because even with the throttle on he still has to pedal. It’s exactly what he was wanting from a vehicle.
My e-bike is a conversation from a regular bike. It can be ridden as a normal bike, e-assist, or just the motor (no pedaling required-aka “scooter-mode”). I love my e-bike and the scooter mode is my lifeline when I ride.
“When I finally got my e-bike, I felt liberated.”
How’d I end up on an e-bike? One year ago I was still walking with a cane due to a back injury from a car accident, and couldn’t get my (non e-assist) bike up even the lowest grades of inclines without leaving me in so much pain all I could do was curl up and cry. Where I live, in Beaverton, everything is uphill and at least a mile away from me. We gave up our car years ago when we moved from Phoenix to North Portland and there was no way ethically or financially that were could go back to owning one. So, while transit allowed me to get to school and back, I never had the flexibility or the capability to just go out and see my friends. I began to feel isolated and shut-in.
Last month, when I finally got my e-bike, I felt liberated. I excitedly picked up my bike from The eBike Store, only to have the process take way longer than expected due to a bank error (and getting lost around Killingsworth trying to get to the MAX). By the time I got back to Beaverton I could barely stand because my back hurt so badly. There are no words to adequately describe to you the relief I felt in just being able to scooter home. I didn’t have to call and beg a friend, or wait for a bus, or, even more unbearably try to bike home. I simply got on my bike, pushed down the throttle and rode home.
I find myself excited about getting out now. I can make plans to go see friends, even if it’s late or they are not on a bus line. The whole world has seemed to open up to me. As I have been riding more I’ve used the e-assist more than my scooter mode but I am more willing to push myself because I know that if I miss and over-do-it, my silver electric chariot will scooter me home.
I hope what I’ve shared encourages you to stop hating on e-bikes and those of us that use them. Your personal rules for biking are great for you, and I’m glad they work for you; but mine, and many others’ are different. We’re not cheating because our playbook is different than yours. After all, we ask drivers to share the road so I’m asking you to share the bike lane.
If you have something to say, we’re always looking for new perspectives to share here on the Front Page. Send in your story via our online submission form and we’ll be in touch.
As a bike rider pushing 60, I can easily imagine an e-bike in my future. I appreciate this article, Wendy, and your perspective as a user. I look forward to more and more innovations in the e-bike arena. The potential for mobility for a wider range of users is very exciting.
I’ve gotten a lot of cheating or lazy Comments with bike shop sales people. Being a bit older than you I remember when the 10 speeds came out and I thought you had to be in poor health to use them. But then I tried one and got educated thru experience. Got one on order! Excited about getting it so I can keep up with the grand kids! In my opinion not much difference from a 1 speed and a 21 speed than a 21 speed and an eBike!
E-bikes are not cheating. It’s only cheating when somebody on a much faster conventional bike passes me. Ride on Wendy. Judging other people must be the most primal human urge after eating, sleeping and procreating.
Perhaps judging even comes before procreating? 🙂
do you really get that much flack?
i find the responses to my e-bike go are usually one of these:
1. no interest. not even noticing, or acknowledging.
2. “woah, is that an e-bike? awesome!”
3. “hey, that’s cheating!” (in a joking manner)
to the latter i respond, depending on my mood, and the commenter:
“yeah, you might be right. but i’m not able to ride a regular bike without enduring intense pain, and likely re-injury”.
which always results in profuse apologies. or…
“yeah, you’re right. i should really be driving instead.” or… the possibilities are endless. be creative, and employ your sense of humor. i’ve never once experienced a truly negative reaction for riding an e-bike.
Some people are more sensitive than others, you know…
Yeah, most people aren’t capable of riding ebikes and are afraid that they will lose some dignity if they can’t handle it. They aren’t for everyone.
I don’t know why you would question her perception of her own experience. that seems a bit rude. if you’re not having that experience, that’s fine, but it’s more respectful to frame it from your own perspective than questioning her experience.
however, I will corroborate her experience: when I primarily used an ebike 3-5 years ago I got a lot of flack for it. so it’s interesting for me to see the attitudes haven’t really changed much.
why do you think i am questioning her perception of her experience?
fwiw, her post only mentions one specific example, and it is from a posting on facebook. my comment was about my experience with face to face interactions. that’s why the question. it wasn’t clear to whether or not she is experiencing aggression while on her bike, or just online.
if it is the latter, well… newsflash: people are often no nice on-line. sometimes they even read genuine attempts to communicate as being rude. if it is the former, well… i wanted to know more about it, because i ride an e-bike myself and i would find it irritating as well.
but i was also surprised because, as i already mentioned, i have never experienced any hostility or attitude from another bicyclist in face to face interactions.
when you asked if she really got a lot of flack, I thought you were asking her to justify how she felt, or that you were looking for certain criteria that would justify her premise to your satisfaction. she obviously gets enough flack that she wrote a guest column in bike Portland.
you are not having the same experience as she is. that’s good to know!
i really meant it as more like “geez, do you really get that much flack? i’m sorry”. that’s the kind of nuance that can be conveyed in speech, that written communication with strangers over the internet is notoriously bad at conveying. for that reason, i try to give people the benefit of the doubt when i am uncertain.
ah, yes, the “i’m sorry” makes the tone and intent much more clear. thanks, peter!
and just to keep it on topic: yes, i got flack for having an ebike, too, so i have a lot of sympathy. thanks for speaking up, wendy!
I don’t like that we say “sorry” to express apology for both things we have done and things we have not done. Is there a pair of words distinctly corresponding to each?
Peter: I’ve hardly had any direct comments, face-to-face from people who knew I had already purchased an ebike. Most of the comments have come from people trying to dissuade me from getting an ebike (with the general attitude of “grow stronger” without really understanding how extremely difficult and time-consuming that would be without an ebike), people I respect online who are speaking broadly (I don’t tend to worry about what all people online think), and then people who I talked to about biking who don’t know I use an ebike.
The comment online that I mentioned came from someone I respected and made me realized how frustrated I was that this idea of using an ebike was not really biking. I realized that I wanted to share my experience with a wider biking audience so that people (like those further down in the comments) could see using an ebike in a different light. I am very grateful to BikePortland for the opportunity to do that.
You’re right, Peter, people in Portland don’t usually tend to be rude and no one should get really uptight about online comments from random people, but not-100% direct areas that I mentioned are where new people can dissuaded from getting an ebike and thus stay using a car. I want to help people feel comfortable in making the right choice for them and help those around them understand why someone might choose an ebike.
I don’t get all the defensiveness. You ride an e-bike. So what? Someone doesn’t like it – screw them.
I ride a single speed, and get the eye roll from fixie belligerents often when they see me coasting. I find it a relief. If someone uses something as stupid and meaningless as your bicycle gearing to judge you, then they’re a stupid, petty and worthless person and their approval is something that I could not care less about. Stop worry about what others think of your bike.
I think e-bikes are terrific as they help people who may otherwise find the requirements of cycling to not fully align with their life to partake in cycling. From regular to casual riders, the west hills and Beaverton are an excellent example of where e-bikes make sense. The fact that there is one less car on the road is better on the wear of our roads (or lack of in the case of cycles) and may enable more variety in the demographics of cyclists. These are all good things. 🙂 That my retired parents use e-bikes is awesome as it gets them out onto the roads when they otherwise would not.
I think a sense of machismo underlies the hostility attitudes toward e-bikes. As a sport to some, cycling is a forum where prowess can be demonstrated and masculinity performed. It does not have to but often this performance is measured against others which contributes to the hostilities that are sometimes aimed at users of e-bikes who may be viewed as not performing “properly” or whatever word may best describe this twisted worldview. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Wendy.
I read somewhere that e-bikes are something like 20% of new bike sales in the Netherlands.
It never occurred to me that anybody would have a problem with e-bikes. I wouldn’t worry about what crazy people think. There are always crazies, like those vehicular cycling people. 🙂
“There are always crazies, like those ___ people.”
My only issue with Electric assist bicycles, is many of the marketed models, have a planned obsolescence strategy. Lithium Polymer, Lithium ion batteries have a limited lifespan, and model designs change every couple of years. It’s likely, that in three to five years, you’ll have a really, really heavy bike, that’s worth less than a replacement battery. That, is only if you can find a compatible battery to fit the unit.
I know that sounds like a blanket statement, but I’m not referring to the “supplimental assist” systems, like the Stokemonkey. These are very modular, and can be configured in many ways, with many different types of batteries
ALL batteries will end up dead one day. Luckily, they generally aren’t nearly as expensive as a new bicycle!
Batteries simply aren’t immortal. The entire world wishes that weren’t the case. It’s not the e-bike makers’ fault.
You think the steel and aluminum and grease and rubber on your bike came from the bicycle fairy with zero environmental impact?
“You think the steel and aluminum and grease and rubber on your bike came from the bicycle fairy with zero environmental impact?”
here we go again…
product life (the length of time, thousands of miles) a given component or material can be expected to perform its function varies greatly. This is true for cars, and for bicycles, and e-bikes, and running shoes.
The point I think some here were making, if obliquely, is that bikes-that-are-ridden are going to win pretty much any contest in the product life category. Replacing brake pads, chains, cables, and tires as they wear out over time represents an ongoing environmental burden. A small but measurable subsidy to keeping the bike in satisfactory condition. I would be curious to learn from folks who use an e-bike what the additional wear items and life expectancies of those components are? Is this a trivial addition? I don’t know.
2 wheels good
I’ll admit it, I was going to hate as soon as I saw the title. Then I read your story, congrats on finding what works best for you and your family!
I am a lifetime bike advocate. In the late 80’s my road racing career (promising I say so myself) was cut short due to blown out knees and back – badly blown out – so bad, in fact, that it took 8 years before I could get on a bike, bend over without pain and push on the pedals across a parking lot. Two things brought me back to riding, which I can do fairly well now: an e-bike to help me get myself, a trailer full of donated bikes, and other gear up and over the hills in S.F. between my youth bike programs, some at over 20% grade; and suspension/granny gear mountain biking which took the pressure off my back while riding. All is good now and I ride everywhere, even on a fully loaded Yuba without e-assist! When I am 90 I plan to still be riding up hills, maybe with e-assist.
There is a place for everything in bikes, including ebikes.
Robert! I love your story! My husband has been using his Yuba Mundo ebike for about seven months now and a few weeks ago he went ride the 7-8 miles home from a friends house when he realized his battery was dead (his lasts so long it can be easy to forget to charge after a while). He biked home w/o the e-assist (another benefit over a car, if you’re battery dies you can still get home!) and was astounded how much easier it was now versus when he used to take his Trek just once a week because he had been biking more often since the e-assist made easier to do so.
Huh.. thanks for the article. I have not really put a lot of thought into them, but have to admit that a couple times when they’ve past me, and I actually noticed them being motorized bikes, I have maybe had some very mild bit of judgement about the rider (in my head – i’d never say anything and ultimately don’t care).
But this article helps me see! Plus, anything to get people out being active is great.
Its ok. If I was struggling uphill and someone who wasn’t peddling zipped past me with a motor I’d probably have some less than charitable thoughts too, that’s just human nature. Just remember when you finally catch your breath that we’re all doing this for different reasons and, if it was me that passed you, I would totally be willing to give a pull up the hill if I could.
I almost wonder if its some weird type of jealousy. Seriously folks, for the normal people out there, e-bikes are perhaps the perfect cure for hills. Not to mention, as Wendy mentions, being able to carry loads of heavy cargo and children.
When my wife and I have kids, I plan on getting an e-assist cargo bike to carry them around. I’d like to be able to travel more than 5 miles without getting completely tired out and sweaty!
(note that I don’t have an ebike now)
Our family has an e-bike that we use when hauling our 5 year old + gear, groceries, etc… I find it very useful and It was far cheaper (with used trailer) then a cargo bike. Once our daughter is on her own bike we might get rid of the ebike before it becomes ewaste but for now it’s very handy.
Right on Wendy!
E-bikes get more people on bikes and I think we can all be happy about that.
To address the skeptics I put together this post about E-Bikes: Conveniences of a Car with the Advantages of a Bicycle
Thanks Pete! Great piece! Thanks for sharing it.
Ebikes belong on the road.please leave bike trails to bikes.
I’ve been thinking about getting one mostly for the warmer months since I have to ride my bike to clients, sometimes multiple clients in a day, and an e-assist bike would help keep me from sweating so much. The alternative for me is driving my car and I hate driving and paying for parking and paying for gas. Riding my bike also just makes me happier. The models that allow you to dial in your level of assist appeal to me the most since I’d like the option of turning it off for the trip home.
The only e-bikes I’d have a problem with are the ones where people modify them into what is essentially an electric scooter, capable of doing 20mph+ without even pedaling.
If they help get more people using active transportation and more people means increased safety for everyone, I’m all for it.
Peter: I have the adjustable assist model, you can get them at The Ebike Store, and I love it. It really does sound perfect for what you’re looking for. I was amazed at how quickly I would make up the cost of the initial purchase through savings on gas and parking, even using the bike shelters Trimet has at Beaverton Transit. Good luck!
The E-bike Store also carries the Ridekick power trailer. It can be put onto the bike or removed depending on how you want to use it that day.
You tell ’em Wendy!!
I am a huge e-bike advocate. These days my wife primarily rides the e-bike we own and her story is similar to yours. She started riding the e-bike after major back surgery and it was incredibly helpful in getting her physically up and about.
Thankfully, out in the real world as opposed to the internet, we’ve only had positive reactions from other people on bikes when they see the e-bike. Most folks even comment they want one.
But don’t worry, there is snobbery in every walk of life. I do a lot of photography and you’d be AMAZED at how up-tight photographers get about being true “artists” on the basis of what kind of equipment you use.
The freedom of movement that an ebike allows can really help fight back the depression that can seep in when you become injured. You feel like less of a burden (*Dickens impersonation* “Please sir may I have a ride home?”) and physical activity often helps strengthen you physically (*TV disclaimer voice* “Check with your doctor before beginning any physical regime after an injury. Improper exercise can lead to pain, death, and looking like a fool when you re-injure yourself”). As a woman with an amazing and supportive husband I want to say thank you for being another amazing and supportive husband. Its always a beautiful thing when you’re injured and your partner is cheering you on. I hope to see you both around.
To disregard that e-biking is “cheating” (in parenthesis because that is the author’s premise) is also to assume that e-biking is the same as regular biking. Neither of which are correct.
If you wanted to be a “real” cyclist, you could be. If I wanted to be an “e”-cyclist, I could be. What wrong with being different?
Do your thing. No one else matters.
Exactly. Drop the victim’s complex. Ride what you want, and if someone doesn’t like you because you’re on an e-bike, why do you care? This article is dumb because its premise is whiny, childish and needy. Get over it, ride what you want and extend your middle digit to the haters.
I don’t think “exactly” quite fits the situation like you may think it does.
Please consider the following suggestions/rhetoric:
Think and feel what you want, and if someone doesn’t like your victim’s complex, why do you care? Write any article you want, and if someone doesn’t like that you write whiny, childish, needy articles, why do you care? Write as thoughtful an article as you want, and if someone doesn’t like it because they assume you come from a whiny, childish, and needy stance, get over it and extend your middle finger to the haters.
Caleb, I should ammend my statement. I thought this article was silly initially because I was under the wrong assumption that no one gives a damn about ebikes using bike lanes. As you’ll see through the thread, I came to discover there are some people vehemently and (in my mind, the eyes of a civil engineer, and the eyes of the law) erroneously believe that ebikes aren’t allowed or shouldn’t be allowed on bicycle facilities.
Now I see this article isn’t stupid. I still stand by the victim’s complex part. If someone doesn’t like how your bike works or looks, they can get bent. But this article isn’t stupid, it’s just unfortunate it even needs to be written and defended.
Thanks for the response. Just to be clear, I wasn’t at all thinking lowly of you or anything. I thought your intent was primarily to help others let go of their victim’s complex, and in that sense was in agreement with you, but I wanted to build on your ideas due to my own past efforts escaping particular victim’s complexes. I just wanted to convey how arbitrary it is for us to be concerned with anybody’s opinion (including our own), how subjective all opinions are, and thus how antithetical our efforts to help others elude their low self-esteem relative to any victimizing can be. Sometimes others think and/or feel they are victims in response to our helpfully intended words, and sometimes we might recognize our victim’s complex, and in response think ourselves far enough out of it that we don’t care when we’re actually made victims of something very harmful. I was trying to convey the idea of considering both sides of “exactly” in our efforts to help victim’s feel vindicated; that is, encouraging more precise understanding of very imprecise feelings. I hope that made/makes sense to anybody.
Anyway, after making my post, I actually read through to the end of the comments and basically came to the impression you’ve added through your amendment. I’m paying attention to ya. 🙂 Keep up the clarifying work on roadway understanding!
I’m glad you understand better why I wrote this. I’ve been very grateful for your well articulated defenses throughout the forums. I’ve been so busy with school and work-study that I haven’t been able to do more than read the comments when I get the e-mails.
Your first statement isn’t necessarily true. My impression was that by saying it’s not “cheating”, she only meant that she doesn’t possess the standards/values other people use to characterize e-bikes’ inherent differences as “cheating”. If so, she wouldn’t have been equating e-bikes and non-e-bikes at all, and it would appear she is comfortable with being different, but that she is concerned with the judgmental, expecting mindset others have.
Given that other people share our “lives”, I would say that’s not an unwise concern so long as one doesn’t let it hurt the self-esteem. If one person matters, all people matter, unless by saying anyone “matters” we just mean we care about them.
Interesting article! FYI PSU researchers are looking for e-bike riders to take a survey about purchase and use experiences. http://tinyurl.com/e-bike-survey.
Got it done! I can’t wait to see the results!
Got no beef with e-bikes. Probably will have one at some point as age overtakes. Until then, mind if I draft behind?
Draft away, though at my top throttle speed of 15mph, less uphill, it’s more of a breeze than a draft.
At least it’s not a recumbent…
Oh you didn’t just say that… 😉
yeah, why do people dislike recumbents so much, anyway?
Because they’re so much better than “normal” bikes (at least that’s what I keep getting told by the bearded ones that ride them…)
Like a tandem cargo bike, recumbents are a hassle to park/store, and they suck at climbing hills. While there’s no standard design, rest assured that the maintenance is more complex.
Even looking past these issues, as I did, I still want to ride on the streets. That means being seen and seeing the road. Attaching a flag to your bike is one thing, but sitting lower than a car’s roofline is a non-starter.
All those issues aside I could see myself investing in a recumbent if my back were to worsen in some way. Recumbents take the pressure of the discs in the spine and can be great for certain people. Since they are so low I’m glad I don’t need one now because I’d be scared to death no car would see me, but I’m glad they exist if I needed one, though I think I’d see if I could mod it so it could be higher off the ground and more visible.
Wendy, If you are forced to buy one you’ll need to wear a fake bear and attach a mirror to your helmet. You’ll also need to brush up on aerodynamic theory so that you can lecture non-recumbent riders on their erroneous choice of transportation.
Alright, I’ll bite. Why would I need a fake bear?
I think that’s a typo for “fake beard”, recumbent stereotype that recumbent riders are bearded old engineering types that looked at bikes logically instead of “This is how bikes have always been made and is how they will be made unto the ends of time”. And you see I just threw in the stereotype of how recumbent riders see the rest of the world. The helmet mirror is still optional 😉
Some of the judgement I feel is certainly valid. As the author pointed out, e-bikes are a very useful tool for those with injury and other physical limitations. My primary concern comes with the treatment of e-bikes as bicycles and not scooters. Yes, it looks just like a bicycle, and you do have pedals, but you don’t have to use them. In my mind, that is a pretty significant difference. I’ve never heard a cyclist complain about someone riding a three-wheel bike, but in that situation they are still the ones powering it. So to me, a primary difference would the motor on your bike. I see your point about how useful the throttle can be, but that also makes your “bicycle” a motorized scooter. Simply because you have the option to pedal as well doesn’t seem to make it reasonable to ride in areas designed for human-powered vehicles (though the laws may certainly differ from my opinion in this case). Also, the view that it is saving the environment is somewhat questionable. The necessity to plug into a wall (which is almost certainly a fossil-fuel source) and the extremely toxic process involved in making, as Dennis pointed out, short lived battery are certainly not a solution to our environmental woes. If everyone rode e-bikes, we would not be fixing the problems of our car-culture, simply lessening them.
Now, before I get torn into for being the first anti-e-bike comment. I will say that my general stance is the more people on bikes, the better. But I do agree with Scott that they should be treated as something different and not expect all the liberties of a traditional bicycle. I also know there are all sorts of great e-bikes that self-recharge and require pedaling, but this is not the stance of the author. If your bicycle has a motor, it is a scooter, not a bicycle.
I’ve got to take issue with a lot of what you are saying.
Regarding an e-bike as being a “scooter” and therefore should be treated differently or is by extension not welcome in areas designed for “human powered vehicles” I’m not quite sure the logic here. Every e-bike I know of tops out at a specific mph, typically 12 or 15 mph. So if the e-bike is the same size and weight as a bicycle and in many cases has a top speed slower than a really well trained cyclist, why would it not be welcome to use the same lanes of traffic?
Regarding the environmental impact, it is true that an e-bike does draw power from an electrical grid that uses fossil fuels. However, the amount of power drawn is tiny compared to most day to day activities. I know in my case, the argument can easily be made that the e-bike means less showers, less laundry, etc. etc. due to an easier and less physically intensive ride. A fifteen minute shower uses more kWh’s than it takes to charge my e-bike battery.
True, if everyone rode an e-bike we would not be completely eliminating our need for electricity. However, will we ever eliminate that need completely? Doubt it… Not so long as humans exist with our current levels of technology. It would certainly be a 99.999% improvement over our current car culture however if everyone rode an e-bike. I’m willing to bet an e-bike traveling five miles uses about the same amount of energy as a car uses getting out of the driveway.
this particular aspect of the discussion could be made moot if we got rid of mandatory sidepath and far to right laws and simply treated bicycles (and e-bikes) as slow moving vehicles.
In addition to the e-bikes/cars comparison, I’d add some very general statements.
Manufacturing and maintaining e-bikes requires much less space, materials, tools, energy, labor, per unit.
Storing e-bikes requires much less space per unit.
Shipping e-bikes requires much less space and fuel per unit.
Using e-bikes requires much less space and energy, and exerts much less force on surroundings.
Now factor places, people, time, and money into that, and imagine the possibilities for long term social changes even in spite of their differences from purely mechanical bicycles.
You’re highliting the difference in riding a regular bike and riding an e-bike. You should be comparing the car these people would otherwise be driving to an electric bike. The benefit is huge. Also, the fuel you use to power your non-electric bike is food. The production and transportation of food uses lots of petroleum based fuels and the more you bike, the more you need to eat.
Exactly! I ride a regular bike a minimum of 5,000 miles a year for recreation and fitness. I commute on my e-bike to replace my truck not my pedal bike.
“If your bicycle has a motor, it is a scooter, not a bicycle.” — not according to the state of Oregon, as long as the motor isn’t too big. It’s a bicycle, and has the same access to bike lanes as other bicycles.
What do you mean by your statement: “Simply because you have the option to pedal as well doesn’t seem to make it reasonable to ride in areas designed for human-powered vehicles”? Because if you mean I should ride my ebike (or scooter if that makes you feel better- the function is more important than the word to me) in with main car traffic rather than in the bike lane, when my top speed is using the throttle is 15mph (I’ve gotten up to 17mph once on a flat surface and 25mph downhill), then I’m sorry but no. It would be downright dangerous for me to play Dances with Cars on a “scooter” that gets passed regularly by lycra-wearing super-cyclists (Man do I wish I could do that!). I’m sorry you feel that assisted-cycling isn’t pure enough for the liberties that non-assisted cyclists have but I won’t risk harm to myself or my family to assuage your sense of bike-area purity.
I dig e-bikes. When I lived in Asia I noticed them everywhere. They are maybe the ideal (sub)urban vehicle for most of the world including America. I like them even when they pass me.
So every time an e-bike article appears on BikePortland I pay attention.
And every time the number of comments is about 10:1 in favor of “love.” With at least 1 sideswipe at ’bents. (Count the comments in this thread.)
I think we tend to notice the hate more than the love.
I agree, but I don’t understand why anyone cares. If you don’t like e-bikes, don’t buy one. If you don’t like people because they use an e-bike then you’re a loser of epic proportions.
I’m what a lot of people might call an old roadie snob, but in my book ANYTHING that has the potential to replace a car is a good thing.
Not everyone enjoys turning pedals. Not everyone actually enjoys a physical effort. Many who can or who used to need motorised help on occasion. But think of Portland area traffic if everyone who used any vehicle other than a car switched for a day–NOTHING would move.
Ebikes are a genuine, serious part of the traffic solution.
‘zactly. I don’t like them, so I won’t buy one. But if you begrudge someone a bike ride because you think you’re some sort of granite-hard badass because you push the pedals unassisted, then you’re fooling youself. If you have two wheels and it’s not running on gas, then you rock and welcome to my bike lane.
Thanks for taking the time to write this article! We are glad you are enjoying your eBike and hope that it is restoring your strength and stamina.
Overall, we are seeing a transition from ‘bikes as recreation’ to ‘bikes as transportation’. As such, we are noticing that folks are placing a higher value on use and reliability than simply on weight savings. As such, cargo, utility and electric bikes have seen increased sales.
About one out of three of the eBikes and conversions we sell is someone – like Wendy- who is working towards getting out of a car.
In terms of Lithium production being harmful to the environment. This is documented and true. If not done properly, lithium extraction can pollute watersheds. My hope is that 1) standards will be developed that will make it possible for consumers to ensure that their batteries were produced in a way that is consistent with their values and 2) that municipalities will develop recycling methods similar to lead acid batteries (nearly 100% of lead acid batteries are recycled) that would radically reduce environmental impacts.
In terms of plugging in to the wall to get power, I do not see a huge difference between my sitting down for a meal and an eBike’s plugging into an outlet. The eBike may produce less emissions (my wife would concur).
Jokes aside: the average calorie on the American plate takes 10 calories of petrochemicals to produce and transport. The human body is only 25% efficient at turning food energy into motion energy. -Granted, I still pedal my electric cargo bike and my basal rate needs to be added to the mix, so it is not a clean equation. However, depending on the source of food and electricity, eBikes may produce less CO2 than their non-electrified counterparts.
thanks for sharing your perspective, Wendy! I learned a lot from this. I am curious what the ride is like on a front-wheel drive bike. Would you (or anyone else with experience) elaborate on that experience?
Hi, it feels basically the same, except you feel a tiny bit like you’re getting pulled instead of pushed. You can test both kinds at Wake’s e-bike store, and I think he still will let ppl rent an e-bike for a few days to make sure they like it, & the rental fee goes towards the bike if you buy one. This link talks about the differences: http://electric-powered-bikes.com/blog/electric-bike-motor-kit-front-or-rear-wheel-drive/
I would recommend you go The Ebike Store and have Wake, or someone there, let you test various models to find what will work for you. It really depends on your riding style.
I’m a fan of ebikes and would love to own a Faraday Porteur some day, but I tend to differentiate pedal assist ebikes from the pure scooter types. Maybe it is just me, but seeing the ebike rider moving their legs with the pedals makes me think of them as a fellow bicyclist. However, seeing a ebike rider pass me on a hill in full scooter mode with their legs stationary makes me think they belong in the driving lane with other scooters. At least pretend to be pedaling if you are in the bike lane, right? I admit this may just be a personal hang-up that I need to get over, but I associate bicycling with the movement of pedaling.
I can tell you that for me if I’m not pedaling its because I can’t. I’ve hit exhaustion or my back has locked up and if I were to pedal any more I would risk laying myself out for days. As for getting out with cars, that’s simply not safe when I’m only going 15mph. I hope you can understand why I won’t risk my health or safety and know that if I could pull you along uphill I would (even if it meant we only went 5-6 mph).
That you acknowledge it as a personal hang up is something I consider very positive. We can’t break down the hang ups we don’t notice, after all.
If you were asking your question sincerely, my answer would be that I don’t think someone not pedaling is wrong or right, but instead is just them not pedaling. 🙂
I use an “e-Bike” as my knees no longer allow me to cycle on a regular bike. I use it to commute, and to get to the pool, where I swim every day. I sometimes see “Real Cyclists” come in to do some swimming with their little arms and big legs. I would never, ever, dream of telling them that they aren’t “Real Swimmers” 🙂
what if they used motorized paddleboards? Would you be tempted to call them not real “swimmers” then?
E-bikes are awesome as replacements for cars (whether necessitated by health or not). But they are not the same things as a normal bike. They’re closer to a segway, a rascal, or a golf cart. I admire them, hope people use them instead of cars, etc. But they are fundamentally different than regular human-powered bikes.
I’ve never witnessed anybody claim e-bikes are not fundamentally different from purely mechanical bicycles or that they are the same. Have you? Do I need to get out more? 🙂
When the price of an e-assist unit comes down I will hopefully be able to afford one for my Surly Big Dummy. Right now, at a thousand bucks and up, they’re simply out of my budget.
Installing e-assist on my Big Dummy will not make me less of a cyclist, and I resent the implication by anyone that it would.
Installing an e-assist on my Big Dummy will also not make it less of a bicycle. I will still need to pedal — that’s why it’s called E-“assist” — and I don’t think the technology will turn my bicycle into a motor vehicle. Again, I will still need to pedal. In my book that makes it a bicycle.
Anything that gets us and keeps us out of cars is a good thing. And I predict that as more of Portland gets older, more of us will be clamoring for any technology that will keep us on our bikes longer. In my book, e-bikes are still bikes, and still good.
Andrew, I’m guessing if they were using a 250hp outboard motor, you wouldn’t call them “real swimmers” either.
Props to Wendy, and to Wake at e-bike store.
The only thing I would add is that they aren’t Only for ppl w/ injuries, they are also for people like me, who want to commute without it turning into a workout…think Amsterdam biking vs. Portland biking.
I wear street clothes, bike 15 miles round-trip every day, prob 15 mph, and Love it. My bike cost $1,400 on sale & I have spent Maybe $150 on it, over the last 2 years. I could probably sell it for $1200 today. Just had the battery checked & it’s still holding at full charge…if you get one, get one from e-bikestore, there Are some unreliable ebikes on the market.
Your completely right! Ebikes are for all types of people for all sorts of reasons, its silly to try and enforce a sort of biking purity test on people. I look forward to seeing you around.
Interesting viewpoint from a different angle:
The jealousy of e-bikes has little to do with cheating or the hazard that any single dangerous user of such will cause; it is the expectation of the amazing popularity of e-bikes as a car replacement and what this will do to the proportionally tiny and insular cycling community.
Imagine when the hardware get much cheaper, as historical technological progress promises. Cheap enough to show up as a reliable and dependable bike at Costco or Walmart. With the price of oil going up like is our wishes will come true: fewer autos and scads more people on bikes. It would be easy to expect that if cycling’s mode share double or triples that most of these new unexperienced cyclists would be on e-bikes.
Many will injure others, many more will injure themselves, some people may even die. This isn’t a good thing but it is also reasonable to expect that the most dangerous riders of e-bikes are displaced from being even more dangerous in their sports car or SUV.
E-bikes promise an easier ride and more usage by “common folk” but these same thing promises lead directly to bad PR for “the cycling community” when e-bike scofflaws become known to all the muggles out there.
oh, and, in 2 years, I’ve gotten maybe 5 subtle smirks but that’s it. People accept e-bikes now. Of course, I’m not bombing around everywhere @ 20mph or anything, I’d prob get yelled at for that (rightfully so)
If you’re bombing around at 20+ mph, it’s not because of the e-assist. Pedal on, brother. As fast as possible.
I got an E-Bike about a year ago. I’ll never ride a regular bike around town again, unless it’s a social ride. It’s a transportation option that’s off the charts. My carbon footprint from an e-bike is less than the bus. If it’s cheating using an e-bike than ALL the cars are cheating by driving. I’ll do 30 miles of errands on a busy day, I would never have the time to 100% pedal that distance and those that have the time, I’m jealous.
All your houses use electricity, if it’s so evil, unplug your house. Wind power is generated at night, that’s when I charge my batteries. I’m turning wind power into transportation, that’s gold. Wind generation has been dumped because no one used it, this stores it for later use. My battery has 3,000 recharges available, that’s 5-7 years. I leave my car at home because my bike is faster than driving and is easier to park downtown too (for free).
I intend on becoming involved in promoting E-Bikes when I return from my adventure next year. The reason they’re so popular in Europe is the $10 gas. Once Americans pay the “true” cost of gasoline, the E-Bike becomes a very viable & affordable transportation option.
The Prius weighs 3,000 lbs, my E-Bike weighs 60 lbs. What are you really hauling around in a Prius? The car, not you, whereas the E-Bike uses most of the energy to move you.
I can’t say enough good things about an E-Bike, they’re so over the top in transportation options when compared to ALL the other choices.
I had someone visit me last week from downtown, they put their bike on Max, then pedaled to my house probably took 45 minutes. I can ride my E-Bike from downtown to my house in about 18 minutes. It’s a huge time saver over public transportation.
It’s time E-Bikes got charging stations, like the electric cars are getting. E-B
if this translates to more advocacy for bike lanes, and – more importantly – more bike lanes, more power to e-bikers
beyond bike lanes.. safe, separated trails and cycle tracks,etc. Sharing the road is a myth. Like asking Clarice Starling to tea with Hannibal Lecter.
My commute was too long – 15 miles and an hour and 20 minutes each way. I used to only commute by bike 2 or 3 times a week. Now that I have an e- bike, by commute is about an hour each way and I ride it every day. I thought I would get more flack for riding it, but nobody has said anything negative at all.
Considering cyclists bitch and moan when the weather improves and “fair weather cyclists” start biking to work, it’s no wonder they also bitch and moan about e-bikes.
Whereas some trolz show up in a paintball mask to bitch and moan about pert near everything, eh scabes?
asbestos filter mask, Mr Know-It-All
You don’t know what a paintball mask looks like.
What works, works. What doesn’t work, doesn’t work.
Given safe facilities to ride, ( I dream of that day) people will look at time/cost/function analysis and make the best choices for themselves. Some will be on ebikes, some not.
And some will still ride busses and drive cars.
And some will walk.
But everybody will make the best choice for themselves. Despite your opinion.
If e-bikes live up to their promise and get many more people out of cars and onto bikes, we could end up with crowded bike lanes and multi-use paths while the roads empty. That’s a particular issue on the MUPs, which are governed more by etiquette than regulation. Given that the only real restriction on e-bikes is that they top out at 20 mph, that could be an untenable situation on non-motorized facilities, with hordes of newbie and elderly riders (drivers?) zipping along at speeds normally reserved for the peleton.
After so many years of advocating for the non-motorized transportation rights, it’s not hard to understand why human-power enthusiasts and advocates would be a bit leery of even incremental incursions of motorized use into their (our) territory.
I, too, hope for a future where bicycles and e-bikes are just considered another form of traffic. The best way to get there is to keep e-bikes on the road, in bike lanes where they exist, but off of facilities designed exclusively for non-motorized users.
or perhaps we take back some of the roadway? Sheer numbers would dictate that.
I believe you mean “and”, not “or”–that’s also the outcome I would hope for if e-bikes were limited to roads, where they could create a whole new category of slow-moving traffic. That’s one of the best reasons to keep them off non-motorized facilities–on the road, they could help take back some of the roadway.
Ron: With my back in its current condition I can’t ride without an e-assist. Do you insist that your non-motorized facilities be limited to only those who have the physical capability use them w/o assistance? Because they seems deeply unfair to me, that because I am not as physically able as you I should not be allowed to use the same bike paths as you.
Many people lack the physical capabilities to use non-motorized facilities. Pack-a-day smokers, for instance, often lack the respiratory capacity required to enjoy non-motorized transportation. Is it fair to ask advocates to give up the concept of non-motorized facilities to accommodate them on fleets of e-bikes? And where do you draw the line? Current restrictions on e-bikes often include power limits–should those be lifted because a 600-pound rider will need more power to enjoy our non-motorized facilities?
Personally, I lack the physical capability to climb Mt. Everest. Should I lobby the Nepalese government to install an escalator, with oxygen stops, to allow me fair access? Or, closer to home, people in wheelchairs can’t get into wilderness areas. That is terribly sad, but not enough so to justify opening these areas up to all-terrain vehicles.
I don’t mean to diminish or demean your condition. You have my deepest sympathies, but that doesn’t mean I want to alter the definition of non-motorized. I hope to see you on the road.
“Pack-a-day smokers, for instance, often lack the respiratory capacity required to enjoy non-motorized transportation. Is it fair to ask advocates to give up the concept of non-motorized facilities to accommodate them on fleets of e-bikes?”
Yes it is.
“And where do you draw the line? Current restrictions on e-bikes often include power limits–should those be lifted because a 600-pound rider will need more power to enjoy our non-motorized facilities?”
If a 600lb man was able to have an ebike built that could support him, allowed him to start getting exercise to get healthy but required more power to do that I would be fine with that as long as his ebike motor could go no more than 15-20 mph.
“Personally, I lack the physical capability to climb Mt. Everest. Should I lobby the Nepalese government to install an escalator, with oxygen stops, to allow me fair access?”
No one is asking the City of Portland or any place else to install moving sidewalks so I and others can get around, so I don’t see this as a fair comparison to using ebikes. This is the problem with slippery slope fallacies, its easy to get lost trying to get to extremes.
“Or, closer to home, people in wheelchairs can’t get into wilderness areas. That is terribly sad, but not enough so to justify opening these areas up to all-terrain vehicles.”
As far as I understand, the law allows wheelchairs like this one http://www.planetmobility.com/store/wheelchairs/power/viking/ anywhere you can go. If you know otherwise please show me what you’ve got on that. That said there it is definitely not against the law for this man to walk anywhere you can (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/08/motorized-bionic-leg-moves-like-a-real-leg/) or for people to use this device to hike through those areas. http://rewalk.us/
I look forward to seeing you on the road. You seem like a smart guy, even if your concerns about ebikes and other low-speed motorized devices is misguided.
I am a proponent of closing 1 out of every 20 residential streets to automotive thru traffic. If you lived on bike street, you could still drive there and park, but you couldnt go more than 2 blocks before being forced to another street. If 5% of our pop uses bicycles as primary mode of transportation, and bicycle transportation is a good thing for our society (it is), then democracy dictates that bikes should be able to be ridden safely and that 5 percent of the roads shouls be for bikes.If we did this, we would see ridership jump to 20 plus percent. wake
Wouldn’t that be nice! Can I nominate the street I live on?
I haven’t come across this idea before. Count me in favor!
Riding an ebike helped me feel comfortable on the road BEFORE transitioning to a more standard bike. I am so grateful I could focus on developing comfort with road traffic and bike traffic on an ebike first. I’m so glad I could keep up with people on social rides before I had developed the fitness to do it on my own. Riding an ebike helped me learn bike routes without worrying about hills, headwind, weather, mood or physical condition. Then, when I was ready to expand my range past my bike’s charging capacity, I was READY! I would never have become a “real” bicyclist without riding an ebike first.
p.s.: I also had a bike conversion at the eBike Store. Thanks, Wake!
I am right there with you. Getting through wide intersections is much less terrifying when I can just turn on the throttle and get through without fear that the SUV behind is going to lose their mind with how slow I am in getting going. I feel less like I’m impeding other cyclists in the bike lane (I still get passed though), and if I get off course or lost I don’t panic about whether I have the physical strength to get unlost and still get where I need to go. Ebikes really are a stepping stone in a lot of ways. I’m so glad it worked for you!
“get through without fear that the SUV behind is going to lose their mind with how slow I am in getting going.” THIS THIS THIS!
All I’ve gotta say is, you’re on a bike. On a simple, humane vehicle that brings you closer to us all. Keep riding, ignore those few that stick out giving you gruff. All the rest of us – and likely even those giving you gruff – support you! 🙂
Thanks! I hope to see you on a ride sometime!
Yeah, gentle ribbing isn’t mean. And if someone is mean, extent the middle finger.
haters gonna hate. u go girl.
If you are in the bike lane you should be under your own power.
As in pedal power.
If you are using the throttle/motor/assist you should move to the auto lane.
This seems to me to be a common courtesy.
I am confused as to why it is not the common practice.
I got passed (from seeming nowhere) on Springwater last week by an E-bike ….must have been a homemade, since he was going an estimated 30MPH ….looked like a barely guided missile . It came up so fast that there was no time for vocal warning.
Wished that the authorities had been present.
That would seriously dangerous since my ebike maxes out at 15mph. I’ve had some awesome super-cyclists pass me when I’ve been in full “scooter-mode” so I don’t feel I’m using the lane unjustly and I won’t play Dances with Cars and put myself (or if I’m riding with my family) or my kids at risk just to be polite.
Sorry but the rules of the road aren’t drafted based on courtesy. It’s about safety. Forcing a person on a e-assist bicycle (and it is a bicycle) that operates at bicycle speed, with bicycle weight, and bicycle safety measures into the street because it’s propulsion method isn’t strickly pedals is the dumbest oversimplification i’ve ever heard.
Do wheelchairs belong in bike lanes because they have wheels? Motorized wheel chairs belong on the street because they’re motorized? Skateboards belong on the road because they have four wheels? I can go on.
Unfortunately, this makes you sound like the kind of bicycling elitist that repels those on the fence from further exploring bicycles as transportation. Bicycle advocacy does not benefit from elitism such as yours.
You can’t have it both ways. Either you want bicycling to be the exclusive realm of the young, hip and fast; or you want more people to ride bikes. Picking the former, at least in this context, makes you sound small and mean.
I guess an e-bike is considered cheating to those for whom biking is a sport, but for many of us, the e-bike is our sole or main mode of transportation. My e-bike has allowed me to remain car-free now for three years, and I can’t see myself going back. I, like many other e-bikers, I suppose, do have a traditional bike for leisure riding or group rides with friends. With bikes, it’s easy to have two or three! With cars, not so much. 🙂
EXCACTLY! I can’t stand EPS bikes for racing (electronic shifting) because races are inentionally exclusive and I think adding any electronic component to a bike in a race ruins the point of a bicycle.
However commuting isn’t a bike race. It should be as inclusive as possible, as long as safety isn’t diminished. An e-bike that operates at 15mph is more than welcome in the bike lanes, because that’s what the bike lanes are for. They’re not constructed so able-bodied individuals can stick their noses up at people who want to be out there but need or want a little boost to make it possible. I can’t even comprehend the idiocy spewed by some of these people on this board. They sound exactly like the morons who say “roads are for cars because I say so”.
Until better batteries or motors come along, ebikes are the only bright spot in the entire evehicles industry. Ecars, e-motorcycles, e-aircraft, all F.A.I.L. Stay tuned to Endless Sphere to keep up. http://endless-sphere.com/forums/index.php
Cars are for sissies, now they’re making bicycles for sissies? I think I’ll just walk.
I retrofitted my commuting bike last fall to an e-assist to help me up Marquam Hill Road in the evening from my job at OHSU. Resorting to this conversion was an embarasment because it was a concession to my age but was necessary secondary to physical limitation from arthritis in my left knee. I’m 68 years old and feel that I should receive some defference for this and my age related illness. Wendy should receive the same consideration secondary to her back problems. I’m sure she would rather have good health than an e-assist bike. I have put almost 2000 commuting miles on my e-assist bike since last fall and during that time I have never hindered any bicyclist on a traditional bike. The younger, stronger bicyclists pass me all the time and I pass some of the old farts like me and less conditioned bicyclists now and then. I think it is great to see people out getting exercise and not using cars. What’s the big deal? If some cyclists really feel the need to find someone to pick on perhaps they should pick on people who use cars to haul their bikes to a place to ride or those that drive to where they plan to jog – those are the people who have failed to see the big picture.
As I read your comment I agreed until the part about those who drive to where they jog or ride who “have failed to see the big picture.” Criticizing the choices someone makes about transportation is arrogant because you never know what part of their ride they are on, so to speak. You are observing them in media res. You and Wendy ride e-bikes due to injury, others for different reasons. I live in a very hilly part of Portland. After I broke two bones I needed to regain bike fitness by riding on the flat, I could not climb, so I had to drive to a spot. I sometimes need to run on the track instead of up and down steep hills so I drive to one. Circumstances like that are part of the “big[ger] picture.”
So just ride your own ride and forget about what others do. We are not them, can’t change them and are frankly in no position to judge why someone is traveling by any given mode at any given time.
From a transportation paradigm change I would like to see as many e-bikes as possible and the advertising of scooters and motorbikes as a sometimes very viable option to cars. These two wheel options can appeal to those who, for whatever reason, don’t bike. They are quick and cheap and reduce congestion and the excessive materials used for modern vehicles. Right now the discussion in policy circles and in Portland in particular is bike or car. This is myopic and ignores a middle ground ripe with options.
Thank you Doug. I couldn’t contemplate Marquam Hill without an e-assist, now I can’t wait to start volunteering again at OHSU and take my bike up that hill (though when I lived in Phoenix, AZ we called that a mountain). It’s so freeing to able to get around after age or disability suddenly limit you. I hope to see you around on campus or around town.
Thanks for not being another car on the road. The more the merrier, and I’d rather be on the road with e-bikes than another Dodge/Suburban/mini-semi-truck, etc.
Great article, Wendy! “Real cyclists”, or anyone else who views themselves as the final arbiter or what is pure and what is not are missing the point entirely and deserve none of your time.
Ride your ride. As Bono once said, you don’t owe anyone any explanations.
I’m currently researching an e-bike purchase/build as our family has simplified down to one car and it makes sense to have something that doesn’t rely purely on my muscle power on days when that would be a challenge for one reason or another. It seems to me that with some assist and the the number of situations where I would truly require a car of my own gets quite small.
It never occurred to me that haters would hate on that, but if so then I’ll gladly take it!
It’s been an amazing car-replacement for us, even w/o my back injury e-assist makes it much more practical for a family of four to get around. I really recommend The Ebike Store for testing models and getting advice.
I love e-bikes. I’ve seen videos of home built e-bikes that can top out at over 30mph. Pretty amazing. I can see the attraction even beyond those who have health issues or simply greater distances to commute. Especially as more and more functionality gets added to bikes, like cargo hauling capabilities. Hopefully it will all lead to more riders, less drivers and an infrastructure that will adapt and accommodate these new, more efficient modes of transportation.