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Reader Story: Please, stop hating on e-bikes

Posted by on April 9th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

“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.

Wendy Hemken stands proudly with her e-bike.

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.

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  • Anne Hawley April 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    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.

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    • Doug Schoeffler August 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      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!

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  • JRB April 9, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    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.

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    • Caleb April 10, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Perhaps judging even comes before procreating? 🙂

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  • peter cowan April 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    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.

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    • was carless April 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm

      Some people are more sensitive than others, you know…

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      • Katie April 10, 2013 at 6:12 am

        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.

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    • eli bishop April 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      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.

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      • peter cowan April 9, 2013 at 3:42 pm

        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.

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        • eli bishop April 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm

          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!

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          • peter cowan April 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm

            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.

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            • eli bishop April 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm

              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!

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              • Caleb April 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

                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?

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            • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 11:47 am

              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.

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 11:55 am

      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.

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  • shirtsoff April 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    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.

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  • Chris Mealy April 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    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. 🙂

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    • spare_wheel April 9, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      “There are always crazies, like those ___ people.”


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      • are April 9, 2013 at 5:21 pm


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  • dennis April 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    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

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    • was carless April 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      ALL batteries will end up dead one day. Luckily, they generally aren’t nearly as expensive as a new bicycle!

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    • Nick April 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      Batteries simply aren’t immortal. The entire world wishes that weren’t the case. It’s not the e-bike makers’ fault.

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      You think the steel and aluminum and grease and rubber on your bike came from the bicycle fairy with zero environmental impact?

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      • 9watts January 7, 2015 at 10:28 am

        “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.

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  • Joe April 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    2 wheels good

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  • V$ April 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    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!

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  • Robert Ping April 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 11:58 am

      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.

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  • stephry April 9, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      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.

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  • was carless April 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    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)

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  • Cory Poole April 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    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.

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  • Pete at Electric Bike Report April 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    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


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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Thanks Pete! Great piece! Thanks for sharing it.

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    • Nancy November 9, 2017 at 7:36 pm

      Ebikes belong on the road.please leave bike trails to bikes.

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  • Peter James April 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      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!

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    • Dee April 10, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      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.

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  • Andrew K April 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      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.

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  • Scott April 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    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.

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      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.

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      • Caleb April 12, 2013 at 3:12 am

        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.

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        • Dan Morrison April 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm

          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.

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          • Caleb April 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm

            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!

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          • Wendy Hemken April 13, 2013 at 3:25 pm

            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.

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    • Caleb April 12, 2013 at 2:57 am

      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.

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  • John MacArthur April 9, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Interesting article! FYI PSU researchers are looking for e-bike riders to take a survey about purchase and use experiences.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Got it done! I can’t wait to see the results!

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  • Bill Walters April 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Got no beef with e-bikes. Probably will have one at some point as age overtakes. Until then, mind if I draft behind?

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      Draft away, though at my top throttle speed of 15mph, less uphill, it’s more of a breeze than a draft.

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  • Rob April 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    At least it’s not a recumbent…

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    • Opus the Poet April 9, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      Oh you didn’t just say that… 😉

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      • eli bishop April 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm

        yeah, why do people dislike recumbents so much, anyway?

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        • Rob April 10, 2013 at 8:55 am

          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…)

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        • Champs April 10, 2013 at 9:11 am

          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.

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          • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm

            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.

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            • Rob April 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm

              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.

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              • Wendy Hemken April 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm

                Alright, I’ll bite. Why would I need a fake bear?

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              • Opus the Poet April 16, 2013 at 11:12 am

                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 😉

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  • Ryan M. April 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    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.

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    • Andrew K April 9, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      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.

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      • are April 9, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        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.

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      • Caleb April 12, 2013 at 3:36 am

        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.

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    • gumby April 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      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.

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      • Ray Ogilvie April 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm

        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.

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    • tnash April 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      “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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      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.

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  • Paul Souders April 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    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.

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      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.

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  • Dave April 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    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.

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      ‘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.

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  • The eBike Store
    The eBike Store April 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm


    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.

    Ryan M

    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.


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  • maxd April 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    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?

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    • tnash April 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      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:

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      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.

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  • Brian April 9, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      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).

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    • Caleb April 12, 2013 at 3:50 am

      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. 🙂

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  • Andrew Thrift April 9, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    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” 🙂

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    • CPAC April 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      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.

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      • Caleb April 12, 2013 at 3:55 am

        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? 🙂

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  • Beth Hamon April 9, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    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.

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  • Ryan M. April 9, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Andrew, I’m guessing if they were using a 250hp outboard motor, you wouldn’t call them “real swimmers” either.

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  • tnash April 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      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.

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  • q`Tzal April 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    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.

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  • tnash April 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    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)

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      If you’re bombing around at 20+ mph, it’s not because of the e-assist. Pedal on, brother. As fast as possible.

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  • Jeffrey Bernards April 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    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

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  • Mike April 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    if this translates to more advocacy for bike lanes, and – more importantly – more bike lanes, more power to e-bikers

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    • just joe April 9, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      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.

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  • gumby April 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    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.

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  • sabes April 9, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    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.

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    • Shoalolo April 9, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Whereas some trolz show up in a paintball mask to bitch and moan about pert near everything, eh scabes?

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      • sabes April 9, 2013 at 11:38 pm

        asbestos filter mask, Mr Know-It-All

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      • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        You don’t know what a paintball mask looks like.

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  • just joe April 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    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.

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  • Ron G. April 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    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.

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    • Joe Adamski April 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      or perhaps we take back some of the roadway? Sheer numbers would dictate that.

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      • Ron G. April 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

        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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      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.

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      • Ron G. April 12, 2013 at 8:44 am

        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.

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        • Wendy Hemken April 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm

          “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 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 ( or for people to use this device to hike through those areas.

          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.


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  • The eBike Store
    The eBike Store April 9, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    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

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    • Andrew K April 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Wouldn’t that be nice! Can I nominate the street I live on?

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    • Caleb April 12, 2013 at 4:10 am

      I haven’t come across this idea before. Count me in favor!

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  • gl. April 9, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    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!

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      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!

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      • gl. April 12, 2013 at 12:30 am

        “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!

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  • Adron Hall April 9, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    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! 🙂

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks! I hope to see you on a ride sometime!

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      • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

        Yeah, gentle ribbing isn’t mean. And if someone is mean, extent the middle finger.

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  • t-b0ne April 10, 2013 at 12:42 am

    haters gonna hate. u go girl.

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  • Dabby April 10, 2013 at 1:51 am

    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.

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    • TOM April 10, 2013 at 8:55 am

      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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      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.

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm

      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.

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    • GloRay April 10, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      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.

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  • Rick Roberts April 10, 2013 at 5:14 am

    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. 🙂

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      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”.

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  • Paul Tay April 10, 2013 at 5:29 am

    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.

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  • Keith April 10, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Cars are for sissies, now they’re making bicycles for sissies? I think I’ll just walk.

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    • jmsith April 10, 2013 at 10:48 am

      Please do

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  • Doug Reid April 10, 2013 at 8:09 am

    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.

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    • sw resident April 10, 2013 at 9:23 am

      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.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      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.

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  • AndyC of Linnton April 10, 2013 at 10:13 am

    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.

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  • Ron April 10, 2013 at 10:29 am

    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.

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  • Z April 10, 2013 at 10:39 am

    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!

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      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.

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  • Livellie April 10, 2013 at 10:52 am

    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.

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  • Lit on Lithium April 10, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I am a 58-year-old ex-roadie who’s been e-biking strictly for exercise and pleasure the past 13 years or so on the quiet backroads of Dutchess County, NY, a semi-rural area that has its share of challenging hills. Currently riding a lithium-modifed Tidalforce S750X which can provide up to 1200W of assist uphill. (Given that the dummies in the NYS legislature declared ALL e-bikes illegal on public roads many years ago, it hardly matters if my power exceeds most state standards.) In over 15,000 miles I have never been challenged by the police, and the local riding club actually gets a kick out of watching me pedal past their best climbers come winter when I sometimes ride in Muck boots and flannel-lined blue jeans @ 250 pounds. Yes, I ride fast, and even have a set of aerobars for downhill coasting, BUT I go out of my way to find the quietest roads where I endanger no one but myself and when in more trafficked areas ride safely at reasonable speeds.

    To each his/her own is my point here, just ride with courtesy and common sense.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu April 10, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Nothing wrong with e-bikes.

    If they are going much over 20 mph, I’d want them to be ridden in the traffic lanes, just like mopeds and scooters aren’t allowed in bike lanes or on MUPs. But a e-bike being ridden 10-20 mph in a bike lane doesn’t bother me. And when I see an e-bike going 25 mph in the traffic lane, that doesn’t bother me either. Think “motorpacer”.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      I went 25mph once on my ebike. It was down a steep hill and I was scared to death. If I understand the law correctly (which I may not) motors that go over 20mph are required to be in with traffic. My ebike tops out at 15mph (just the motor) and my husband’s tops out at 20mph. The ebikes you can buy from a shop shouldn’t be going more than 20mph.

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  • El Biciclero April 10, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I have to admit that I feel a gut reaction of “no fair!” when I get overtaken by someone on a e-bike, but that’s just me being too competitive. Transportation-wise, don’t most of of us just want people to use the right tool for the job? If you really need a car, use it. If a train goes where you want, ride it. If a conventional bike works for you, use it. If an e-bike suits your needs, use it!

    The only thing I would ask is that e-bike users follow the golden rule and not blast by us “sweaters” at high speed or close range; be willing to slow down and navigate safely among everybody else.

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  • mariposaman April 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I still feel the hate in some of the comments here. I monitor Twitter for ebike news and there is a comment or two every day or so. Today’s comment ” The ebike is a scooter not a motorcycle, get it off the road ” and yesterday “E-bike should be ban all together just peddle you bums! #ihateEbikes”. Most comments are similar, sometimes the comments are worse. Some cities in Southern Ontario, like Toronto and Windsor and others, are banning ebikes from trails and bike lanes, making the hate institutionalized, and the province a black hole for ebikes.

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  • Donna April 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I had Whooping Cough over the summer and am still dealing with flare-ups. The harder I ride, the worse the flare-ups get. I have not been able to ride up even a mild hill since last May without that horrid cough following. As a result, I’ve not been riding much the last year. If I had the money, I would buy an e-bike in a heartbeat. They never particularly appealed to me before. I definitely get it now.

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  • Erica April 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Motor-assisted bikes are cheating if the motor is engaged while on a bike path, in my opinion. They are motorized vehicles when the motors are engaged and should be in the roadway.

    I think cyclists should be very wary of ‘motor creep’. If small motors are allowed, is there anything to prevent larger, faster and heavier machines with pedals from using a path? Not that I know of.

    Keep it simple: Bike trails are for non-motorized vehicles.

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      If you actually think that, then you’re a belligerent absolutist. Do people in electic wheel chairs not belong on the sidewalk because sidewalks aren’t for motorized vehicles, even though their motorized vehicle operates at walking speed? An e-bike operates at slow speeds, I know because I roar past them when commuting. They pose no danger to anyone else using bicycle facilities more than any other bicycle.

      Your argument is totally unsupportable and fails the slightest logic check.

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      • Erica April 11, 2013 at 10:04 am

        Oh for Pete’s sake. If it’s necessary to mention that I support the continued extension of disability access laws to bikeways, then OK. Please amend my earlier post with the qualification ‘…except for the continued extension of all applicable handicap access laws’ or something of the sort. There are specific laws that relate to handicap access to everything from stairs, airport causeways, publicly-accessible buildings, etc.. I’m not arguing against those.

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    • jsmith April 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      There Are very effective things that can and do prevent “motor creep”, they are called laws. Oregon has laws to prevent “motor creep”, and they are very effective. Also, I disagree with your opinion that motorized bikes should not use bike lanes — an electric bike has a bicycle frame and goes the same speed as a bicycle…my opinion is that Oregon made the correct decision to have them use bike lanes

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  • anon1q2w3e4r5t April 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Instead, let’s just divert all of our hate towards bike sharing!!!!

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    • Alan 1.0 April 10, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Let’s roll it all into one and have ebikeshare.

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  • J-R April 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I wouldn’t take all of the comments too seriously. I think a comment like “that’s cheating,” is simply a brief, though poor attempt at a personal connection and an attempt at humor. As one who rode a tandem on Cycle Oregon, I can tell you scores, if not hundreds, of riders claimed “she’s not pedaling” as they passed. One tandem couple finally put a sign on their bike offering a prize for the best comment that did not include “she’s not pedaling.”

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  • maxadders April 10, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Sure, I COULD walk around Wal-Mart but they have those free electric scooters at the front door, so why would I bother? If I need something on a high shelf I just hold down the horn until one of the stock boys notices.

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    • q`Tzal April 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Wal-Mart has employees?
      That work somewhere else other than the check out?

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  • Mike April 10, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Who gives a s*^t what you are riding. Obviously the portland cycling community is a very judgemental one. You are lame if you ride a fixie, wear spandex, have too bright a light or no light at all, wear a helmet or don’t wear a helmet etc, etc, etc. Perhaps it would be best if people would keep their comments to themselves and just ride

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    • Dan Morrison April 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

      I agree, but the problem isn’t judgemental cyclists. They’re rare. The problem is weak-willed babies taking the derision of a tiny minority of cyclists as some violation of their personal freedom that damages their self worth. Suck it up. If someone doesn’t like your bike and lets you know, then tell them where to stick it. Why are so many people on this board in need of validation from other cyclists and why do so many feel victimized by judgement?

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  • GlowBoy April 10, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    E-bikes aren’t cheating. If anything is cheating, it’s driving a car when you could be on a bike. I’d agree e-bikes wouldn’t belong in the bike lane if they could zip you along the flats at 20-25 mph, but that’s not (legally or generally) the case. Most of the commercial designs I’ve looked at top out around 15mph. If you want to go faster than that you’ll need to pedal, as the motor assist usually cuts out at higher speeds.

    Personally, after years of dismissing the idea I’m suddenly considering an e-bike conversion. Not so I can go 20-25mph on the flats, but so I can go 12-15mph (still in the realm of “normal” bike speeds) on my big climbs.

    The reason I’m considering it is to reduce the couple times a week I drive all the way out to Beaverton. I’ve come to realize that when I do choose to drive, it is almost always due to the time savings of the car. Balancing a heavy workload and meeting schedule on the westside with significant family responsibilities on the eastside, and on some days the 70 minute one-way trip by bike just doesn’t work. (And no, moving closer to work or taking a job closer to home just ain’t gonna happen in the foreseeable future). An e-bike would make those long grades over the West Hills go a LOT faster, and by my calculations would knock 15-20 minutes off the trip. THAT would be enough to tilt the balance towards biking on most of the days when I currently choose to drive.

    I used to think e-bikes were a silly idea because I figured that if I were going to ride a bike I might as well get exercise doing it. I now realize that was a silly point of view because (1) I already ride 2-3x a week and get plenty of exercise biking as it is, (2) even on an e-bike I would still be doing most of the work and getting moderate exercise, and (3) it would obviate the time difference that is my primary obstacle to riding more (and driving less) than I currently do.

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    • Erica April 11, 2013 at 10:25 am

      When we start allowing motorized vehicles in bike lanes, we’ll see the average speed of the vehicles using the bike lanes increase as well as the average weight of the vehicles in the bike lane increase. More mass and more speed equals more potential to injure those who have less mass and lower speeds and are in or in close proximity to a bike lane. (We’ve seen the same effect with the introduction of heavier SUVs on roadways).

      As I stated in my earlier post, I’m very wary of allowing ‘motor creep’ on bikeways. I feel it’s inevitable that people will push the limits too far and we’ll be stuck with bike paths that resemble just another variant of an automobile roadway.

      As an aside, I do regret using the word ‘cheating’. It was in reference to someone else’s earlier post. May folks have subsequently pointed out that we need to tone down the rhetoric and I quite agree.

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      • Dan Morrison April 11, 2013 at 11:09 am

        Do you have any backup about the average speed of vehicles in bike lanes going up with e-bike use? Bike lane use would logically increase because more people could comfortably operate a bicycle in the space, but I don’t know how you can make a blanket statement like that. And since when is average bicycle speed a measure of safety in a bike lane? Lower speeds are more unsafe than higher (12-15mph assumption) because a higher speed differential between the slow bike and other vehicles and the simple physics that a wheel spinning faster provides a greater balancing force. If you’re just using your gut to make this stuff up, it’s totally bogus. People who actually design these facilities have to use real research and view everything through the lens of safety and a desire to be amenable to the greatest number of users, not your individual dislike for ebikes and dislike of bikes that move fast.

        I ride a single speed and if it’s flat or a descent, I’m moving well faster than 15mph (I’m working hard on climbing at a high speed too). I ride safely, follow the rules, and pass considerately, but when alone, I pedal as fast as possible. I still get passed in bike lanes. They’re not just for slow moving vehicles. Just like a jogger and a dottering elderly person have to navigate a sidewalk together, a person on a 40lb. Pashley cruising at 8mph in a bike lane has to navigate the bike lanes with people in 10lb carbon fiber race bikes. It’s a public shared space for bicycles. An ebike is a bicycle, and they operate at speeds that are not any faster than a pedal-powered bike operates at. And the following is just opinion, but it seems to me like the added weight and added expense for an ebike would not attract able bodied individuals who want to ride as fast as possible. I can’t imagine someone with an ultra-light race bike wants to convert it to an ebike so they can ride even faster and more recklessly. They appeal to people with bad backs, knees, people who are elderly and people who don’t want to roll into work sweaty and tired. None of these people are going to be ripping up the bikepaths.

        I’m not supporting people ripping through bikelanes and bike paths on electric motorcycles or scooters or anything like that. Everything I’ve written is about ebikes that operate at normal bicycle speeds, and every ebike product I’ve seen maxes out at 15mph. If you want to ride a bike and are some way prevented from putting enough force into your legs to safely operate it in a bicycle space for a reasonable distance, strap an electric motor onto it and get in the bike lane. There’s no good reason to prevent their use other than selfishness and paranoia.

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        • Erica April 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm

          Are you doubting that an average, not-very-in-shape rider will go faster on an e-bike? Come on.

          As far as the weight argument is concerned, I looked up a single e-bike model (Kinetic electric sprint) and it weighs 50 pounds! *Fifty*! My bike weighs a quarter of that.

          So, let’s say e-bikes result in more utilization of bike paths with the difference being more users of e-bikes. If that were to occur, the average rider will be going faster than they ordinarily would on motorized bikes that weigh more than an average bike. You cannot honestly say that won’t impact bike and pedestrian safety, not to mention wear-and-tear of the paths.

          Please note that I have never suggested that motorized bikes be relegated to highways. There are specific restrictions that make vehicles acceptable on a highway. Minimum speed, for example.

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          • Dan Morrison April 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm

            A Pashley also weighs 50lbs. Those big, wonderful bikes in the Netherlands weigh 50lbs. Do you see cyclists who weigh more than 50lbs more than you? Yes, you do. Are you going to fight against them because their extra mass endangers you?

            50lbs is the point. That’s a heavy bike, but a fat rider on a heavy ebike weights, let’s say 350lbs. How much does a motorcycle weight? Lowball: 500lbs then add a rider. How much does a moped weight? 200-300lbs. How much does a car weight? If you have an ultralight sports car, about 3000lbs. It’s all relative. And that’s why bikes and ebikes belong on multiuse paths. Every other mode you’ve erroneously brought up is at least 4x as heavy as the heaviest bike out there.

            And I flat out do not believe your bike weighs 12.5lbs unless you’re a pro racer with carbon fiber everything, and if you are, there’s no ebikes passing you, so let it go.

            Also, you don’t know anything about pavement design if you’re worried about a bike that weighs (and I’m being generous to your point) 30 additional pounds deteriorating pavement at a faster pace. Leave the civil engineering to civil engineers, please. Do you berate people on narrow and hard tires for deteriorating your path? I’d hope not. Do you berate a rider who weighs more than you for deteriorating your path? I’d also hope not.

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            • Dan Morrison April 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm

              Please excuse the bad weight/weigh usage. Typos are embarrassing.

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      • GlowBoy April 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        As I pointed out in my post above, most e-bikes are limited to maximum of around 15mph for motor assist, and reaching any higher speed requires 100% pedal power because the motor freewheels.

        So if you were already going above 15mph in a flat bike lane without assist, getting on an e-bike isn’t going to make you any faster. On fast, flat bike lanes or downhill bike lanes, I don’t think “average speeds” in the bike lanes go up significantly at all.

        The only place where average speeds will go up significantly is where the average speed is already well below 15mph, i.e., uphill climbs. I fail to see the harm in that, or how it substantially increases the risk of injury.

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  • Pauly J April 10, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    In all honesty, I just hate on e-bikes because I am insecure. Kind of like those little wheeled folding bikes… I mean, come on, right?!

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  • Chris Anderson April 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I got an E bike because it’s super fun. I press the throttle and now I’m going fast. I could totally ride a regular bike, but E bikes are really fun.

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    • spare_wheel April 12, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      15 mph is not fast.

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      • Wendy Hemken April 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm

        It so is when you’ve been used to getting around by transit and walking! 😉

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  • Craig Harlow April 10, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    I’m willing to bet that e-bikes are what will propel the majority of those at the upper end of the “8-80” in cities that actually succeed in broadly implementing a complete streets network.

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  • Luke Michaels April 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Just about anything that gets more people riding is a positive in my book.

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  • q`Tzal April 10, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Banning e-bikes from the bike lanes because of rude & dangerous riders is akin to banning ALL CARS ON ALL ROADS because a minority of drivers are hazardous. Better to require e-bike riders to pass a basic DMV test, charge only to cover administrative costs, and carry some sort of DMV license.

    As for the jealously/”you’re cheating!” thing:
    Our public bike ways are not your personal training ground for the Battle of Thermopoli. Public ROW are just that – public. If you don’t like what people are doing perfectly safely and legally in the public ROW stay home; Fox News may agree with you.

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    • Erica April 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Bzzzt! Wrong! Most bikeways are designated for non-motorized vehicles by law. So, you are incorrect to say that it is legal behavior.

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      • q`Tzal April 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

        You are correct, e-bikes are “motorized” and the law restricts motor vehicles from bike lanes and most MUPs.

        Unfortunately this argument breaks down on legal terminology and practical real world application:

        Legally in Oregon an e-bike, built within certain restrictions, is considered a bicycle, not a motor vehicle, and its user is permitted all the rights and responsibilities of a bicycle rider. Above certain operational speeds and motor strengths an e-bike is not legally a bicycle but is not considered a road legal motor vehicle. While it makes some sense to lump amped up e-bikes in with mopeds there are complicated design, insurance and legal issues with that as well.

        Further, on the note of real world policing of vehicular laws, an e-bike that is not fast enough to travel with fast (55mph) surface street traffic is as much of a hazard (from a police officer’s POV) as a legal e-bike, an HPV or even jaywalkers. Our roads and the laws that govern them are set up to protect incompetent drivers from their own lack of skill. Simply saying “those e-bike riders need to go away!” doesn’t negate the fact that they are legally allowed to use the public ROW. The speed differential between an e-bike and HPVs and that of an e-bike and automotive traffic is vastly different. From a traffic engineering standpoint we put like with like so the e-bikes are here to stay.

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        • Dan Morrison April 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm

          Exactly. Traffic engineering isn’t beholden to people’s likes and dislikes. Its objective is safety and inclusion of all viable modes of transportation and keep modes that differ wildly in size, weight, performance abilities, and safety measures apart.

          Also, Erica’s original point about bike paths specifically is wrong in nomenclature and understanding of the facility. It’s not a bike path. It’s a multi-use path. It serves pedestrians, bicycles, wheelchairs, stollers, skateboards, rollerblades, etc. Ebikes fit perfectly within the basis of design for a multi-use path and very much should be allowed on them. Just as a person with strong cycling skills needs to comport themselves accordingly on the Springwater Trail when it’s crowded, a person on an ebike should be held to the same expectation. They shouldn’t be barred because they can ride at a moderate pace, they should be welcome and expected to be considerate, use good judgement, and follow the rules just like every other pedestrian, motorist, bus driver, train engineer, cyclist, motor cyclist, and scooter driver is expected to do in public spaces.

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          • Erica April 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

            A moped rider can ‘ride at a moderate pace’ without having to pedal. Is that acceptable? Is it OK to have that vehicle motoring along on the springwater trail? If that’s OK, how about a small, 50cc, motorcycle? A go-cart?

            Someone mentioned that e-bikes comport to specific restrictions that allow them to operate legally on bikeways. Please point me to the specific statute in Oregon that defines what those restrictions are.

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            • q`Tzal April 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

              A chart put out by ODOT: OREGON MOTORIZED SCOOTER POCKET BIKE GUIDE briefly answers questions and points to relevant vehicular code.

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            • q`Tzal April 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

              Ban the criminal not the activity.

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            • Dan Morrison April 11, 2013 at 3:16 pm

              I didn’t mention anything about the law. I’m talking about the basis of design for the facility. The law should follow the basis of design and not the opposite.

              A moped is not the design vehicle, either is a motorcycle (both are too fast, burn gas, are motor vehicles accomodated on the streets, and weigh too much) or go cart (too wide, too fast, burns gas, weighs too much, no one owns them and a red herring). Their operating speed are much higher than a bicycle’s (which is the top-end design vehicle for a multi-use path). Your logic is flawed.

              They don’t fit in the basis of design. The basis of the design is the crux of everything and if you don’t understand that, please the withold comment.

              You’re treating this whole topic like a year 1 law student or a philosophy major. This is the realm of a civil engineer, and that’s why you’re wrong. Safety is the ultimate concern and some of the factors that go into the safety are relative similarity in size, operating speed, weight, stopping ability, and isolation from/exposure to other users. The specific source of locomotion is not inextricably linked to safety (minus internal combustion engines, which are sources of sound and air pollution and run counter to other design considerations of a multi-use path). The laws are based on the input of those who design these facilities for safe and broad use. Laws also should change as modes of transportation change. If an ebike isn’t allowed on mixed use paths because of some arcane twist in the ORS, that should be changed.

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              • Erica April 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm

                Point me to the Oregon laws that specifically identify and include e-bikes as legal vehicles for bike paths. You say that the laws should follow to support those vehicles that are compatible by ‘the basis of their design.’ That makes sense to me, but if ebikes have been specifically recognized, I’m not aware.

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              • El Biciclero April 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm

                814.405 Status of electric assisted bicycle. An electric assisted bicycle shall be considered a bicycle, rather than a motor vehicle, for purposes of the Oregon Vehicle Code, except when otherwise specifically provided by statute. [1997 c.400 §4]

                So it looks like it’s up to you to find specific provisions that would disallow use of electric assisted bicycles in any particular place.

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              • q`Tzal April 12, 2013 at 9:16 pm

                I provided a link to ODOT’s official chart breaking this issue down very simply. It has a column for the specific ORS code segments that a vehicle is defined by. All off Oregon’s legal code is freely available online and a Google search of the code number will not only provide a link to the official state sit but other legal help sites that will explain it.

                If you chose not to avail yourself of any of the information and knowledge freely available online that is your problem; insulting us and insisting you are right doesn’t make it so.

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  • GlowBoy April 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Erica, your talk about ‘motor creep’ and “If that’s OK, how about a small, 50cc, motorcycle? A go-cart?” are a slippery-slope fallacy that doesn’t deal with the actual issue at hand.

    The answer to your question, “Is there anything to prevent larger, faster and heavier machines with pedals from using a path?” is simple: THE LAW. Same thing that prevents cars from driving on sidewalks and MUPs. Believe it or not, it works. E-bikes are quite strictly defined in both state and federal law (as well as the laws of the EU, the much larger market for which most commercial e-bikes are being developed). Motor power, top assisted speed and the method of propulsion (electric only) are all limited. The mopeds, go-karts, 50cc motorcycles, etc. that you cite are quite clearly excluded from the e-bike category.

    And you still haven’t addressed my earlier point that legal e-bikes aren’t capable of providing power to the wheels above the speeds in the upper teens traveled by moderately fit cyclists on flat bike lanes, so the only places where they’ll appreciably increase average speeds is on uphill climbs where speeds are very low anyway.

    BTW, some e-bikes may well be 50 pounds, but the conversion kit I’m looking at will bring my bike (which currently weighs HALF of that – yours weighs a QUARTER? Seriously? Holy crap!) up to 35 pounds, no more than plenty of beach cruisers and fatbikes. (The fact that you say your bike weighs under 13 pounds makes me wonder if you might be one of those elitist racer types who looks down on those less fit than themselves as somehow inferior).

    You do seem to have switched from talking about bike lanes to MUPs in your latest posts. Although I’ve come over to the side of strongly defending the use of e-bikes on on-road bike facilities, I do share your concerns about MUPs, where even 15mph can be far too fast when there are lots of pedestrians around, and we already have problems with pedal-powered scorchers sometimes going too fast (e.g. Waterfront park in the summer). I am concerned that we might see e-bikers blithely motoring at 15mph down busy MUPs, leading to the imposition of arbitrary speed limits and arbitrary enforcement – which none of us want to see happen. It might also lead to the banning of e-bikes from some bike paths, which could be a significant problem in places where there is no safe road alternative (I’m thinking of the MUP along highway 26 that I rode home this evening). I’m also concerned about some advertising I’ve seen that shows the use of e-bikes for mountain biking. They might be OK for adventure riding on gravel roads, but they have no place on ANY public singletrack MTB trail I’ve ever ridden on. So while I think you have valid concerns when it comes to paths and trails, I don’t think you have much of a case against e-bikes in bike lanes.

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  • TOM April 13, 2013 at 7:49 pm


    The answer to your question, “Is there anything to prevent larger, faster and heavier machines with pedals from using a path?” is simple: THE LAW. Same thing that prevents cars from driving on sidewalks and MUPs. Believe it or not, it works.
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    THE LAW …oh that’s a good one. THE LAW ? do you ever ride SpringWater MUP ? It’s like the “Wild West” (in the east) …PPD comes out there a couple times a year, usually on nice days and patrols a couple of blocks…..they come out and harass the homeless . PPD pulling over a 30MPH e-bike ? sure, like that’s gonna happen.
    I can ride city streets for a week and never see THE LAW.

    The e-bike that wizzed past me was right a the crossing of the 205 MUP & Springwater ….he never even slowed down ..if a rider had been crossing there , it could have been nasty.

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    • GlowBoy April 24, 2013 at 11:58 am

      Tom, the thing about THE LAW is it also generally prevents high-speed e-bikes from being SOLD IN STORES. It’s true that a homebrew solution will be able to blast along illegally, but those illegal e-bikes are not widely available commercially. So it will remain an isolated problem.

      I ride Springwater on the Willamette all the time and have never seen anything like you describe. Outer Springwater, which I only get to a couple times a year, wouldn’t surprise me. It’s like the Wild West out there and will continue to be so. Your point was ….?

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  • Robert Burchett April 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    You thought you hated e-bikes? OK, put a soundtrack to this:
    e-, e-, e-: e-, e-bikes.

    Now that your brain is toast, you’re welcome, let’s talk about the future. E-bikes. You can buck trends, but you can’t beat the aging process. I haven’t put a motor on any bike of mine, because I don’t want to think about how far I can go before a charge, but it’s coming. There are mornings when I don’t really want to go to work, and let’s not talk about going home. When it starts to hurt a lot to get up that hill I will start packing a battery and that’s all there is to it.

    Once you go electric you can’t back, I’m thinking, because no doubt that motor has more drag (not engaged) than a generator, and even the most def system weighs what–20 pounds? Who is going to pay that kind of penalty for a back-up? It’s throttle time.

    Final thought: 10,000 NYC food delivery persons can’t be wrong.

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  • Randy Thornton April 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Welcome to the ebike world, Wendy!

    I’ve been ebiking in Portland as my primary mode of transport for well over a year now: every day commuting, shopping, getting around.

    Unlike you, no one discouraged me to start with, quite the contrary, but like you I have had a great experience from Wake and crew at the Ebike store. Anyone at all interested in one should go there and do test rides.

    My experience on the road has been much like Peter’s:

    1) Most people don’t notice — My bike looks like an ordinary bike, except for the battery: because it is. It’s a commuter cruiser and while riding it is not much different from any other bike.

    2) People are curious when they do notice — When my bike is parked in front of a store or I am stopped along the road, people often come up and want to know more.

    From these conversations, I have noticed that the main incorrect preconceptions people (including other bikers) have are:

    i) Ebikes are like scooters. Not always true: My bike is a pedal-assist bike. If I stop pedaling, it stops going. I pedal all the time. The motor is just assisting, and at a level I can adjust. When the battery runs out, I just keep pedaling. If I wanted a scooter, I would have bought a scooter. I bought a bike.

    ii) Ebikes are about speed. Also, not always true. My top speed is no faster than an ordinary bike, less in fact, given its weight and my age. What the pedal-assist does do is help me in situations where I need an assist in power: up steep hills and taking the lane when I need to. It’s a definite safety plus to have that.

    3) “It’s cheating!” (usually said humorously.) My answer to this is always the same: “All technology is cheating.”

    Yes, ebikes are cheating. But, all bikes are cheating. Gears, chains, pneumatic tires, petroleum-based artificial-fiber computer-designed multi-layered sweat-wicking odor-fighting sunscreen-impregnated clothes: all cheating. Electricity, steel, fire?

    Are there people who passive-aggressively sneer at me at lights? Sure, rarely, but it does happen, but so what? Some people will always find someone to look down on and pre-judge without even bothering to find out about their situation. I ride my ride and try to be a good and considerate rider.

    I’m really glad ebiking has been working for you, Wendy. Ebiking got me back into biking in my middle age. I look forward to riding every day. It’s one of the best things I have ever done.

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  • Opus the Poet April 16, 2013 at 11:27 am

    OK there are 2 sets of regulations that cover e-assist bikes, Federal and state.

    Feds are simple, Max power of 750 Watts continuous and no more than 20 MPH on level ground, and the pedals must move the bike with the battery disconnected.

    I don’t know the OR laws as I don’t live there, but here in TX there are important differences from the feds: no power limit, a 100 pound empty weight limit, and no speed restrictions on pedelec up to the posted speed limit. Basically if you have to pedal to get assist then the posted limit for the road you’re riding is your speed limit. The weight limit is because some fool put 300 pounds of lead acid batteries on his bike to make something he could ride from one end of the DFW Metroplex to the other and back on a single charge and that’s motorcycle weight without the motorcycle hill climbing capability. The change in the speed limit was because there are no 20 MPH streets or roads outside private property in TX by law. The minimum speed limit on a public street or road is 30 MPH and the slowest school zone can be no less than 20 MPH or 20 MPH lower than the posted limit on the street or road the school zone runs through.

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  • AmidMany April 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    I’m going to put a handicapped sticker on mine.

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  • Gretchen April 18, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Wendy, did you use your own bike with a conversion kit? I’ve been looking at ebikes, but I really like my Cannondale, and would like to add an assist to help me get up the hills.

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    • Wendy Hemken April 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      The Ebike Store installed a conversion kit on my regular bike.

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  • Gretchen April 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks. I enjoyed the article. It’s inspiring me to get back on the bike!

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  • Scott April 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for the article! I certainly don’t have such legitimate reasons for owning an e-bike. I like to ride my traditional road bike, and I love to ride my e-bike. Sometimes I just don’t care about whether or not I am getting exercise.

    In short: I ride an e-bike simply because it’s “effing” FUN! I have no shame. I had a local commuter-cyclist make a snarky comment the other day, so I cranked the throttle and dropped him like a bad habbit 🙂

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  • Alan P April 23, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I’m 51 yrs. old & have a Hypertension issue also bad knees so long walks are tough for me. I got into E-Biking about 15 months ago. The first month I lost 19 lbs. & have kept it off & my high blood pressure is close to normal . I ride an average of 20 miles a day. I make many Post Office runs for my business almost every day & it’s faster then taking the gas guzzler out of the garage. I was able to sell one of my vehicles I’m averaging 5000 miles per year or so on the bike. I get nothing but positive comments on the streets .
    To sum up my E-Bike has changed my live in the following ways.
    Health drastically improved.
    Sold a second car, saved thousands in gas insurance & registration , repairs too.
    I maintain the bike, do my own repairs, love the challenge { I learned how to true wheels while on the bike }.
    The technology is fascinatinig, from the lithium batteries, to the different drive systems, the gear less hub motors use of Hall sensors that make it possible that is real interesting stuff to learn abou., the list goes on.
    I used to ride motorbikes 30 years ago & it does remind me of the good ole days without the noise. I’ll be honest I look forward to ride everyday, it’s a great hobby & lifestyle & it might sound corny but it really changed my life, love it.

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  • Sue April 29, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I did it! I went to the ebike store for a conversion kit. It works so well! I need help going up hills, and the pedal assist smoothly takes over where my own power gives out.

    Keeping the above comments in mind, I was ever so vigilant to make sure I didn’t pass anyone in the bike lane and kept to my usual slow speed. Until I zoomed up the wicked hills on the Alameda ridge. Then I let out a few whoops of pure delight. It’s zippy!

    I gotta say that the folks in the ebike store on Alberta simply rock! Chad did an awesome job. I asked him to put fenders on the bike too, and he went out of his way to find some absolutely groovy purple fenders! I’ve been getting compliments all day!


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  • Bigwheel May 13, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    q’Tzal has it right. Ban the criminal, not the activity. If you see someone on any bike, motored or not, being a tool call them on it.

    And BTW, actually OR allows for the use of up to 1000w and a top speed on level ground of 20 mph. And those stinky, loud chinese gas engines you (hear before you) see sometimes are totally illegal in OR because there is a 35cc limit and they are all 49+cc’s.

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  • Ben L November 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Here in Auckland, NZ, I have an elctric bike and we are just about to get an electric Christiania cargo bike to carry round our daughter (Cristiana).

    Whenever some lycra clad MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra) says “that’s cheating”, I just say “only if you think it is a sport”.

    Since they are usually sporting a pretty good belly, that tends to bring an abrupt halt to that conversation!

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  • JohnnyK January 6, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Finally someone using an E-bike for what IMHO it was meant to be used for. Most of them that I have seen on the road are not hauling stuff and are not helping those with some physical need but rather riding in the wrong direction in a bike lane while the operator is texting and almost running you off the road. While I agree the same thing can happen with a non-motorized vehicle but at least with those they are not doing 20+mph heading straight at you while your trying to climb a hill. I find them to be very dangerous and equivalent to allowing motorized wheelchairs, golf carts, and ATV’s in the bike lane. I think at the very least E-bikes should be limited to 12 – 15 MPH which is the average speed of a upright bicycle anyway. Now my only real question is why not just get a motor-scooter (they cost about the same as most E-bikes anyway) and leave the bike lanes to human powered propulsion?

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  • DavidQ May 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm

    I ride an electric fat bike. It a commuter bike and utility bike. It gets a car off the roads and me some exercise. Most people are indifferent or goof on it or shake their heads in disbelief when they see it. I get more incredulous exclamations than anything. The cyclists on the foot ferry mid-trip call it the “Monster Bike” as in “Monster Truck of Bikes.” I do get the occasional sneer or remark. I always respond “We aren’t racing” or “I’m not doing this for sport.” That usually settles their hash. If I’m in a snarky mood I tell them “nice tights” before riding away.

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