E-bikes have changed the game. Is it time to change the rules?

person riding an electric bike on a street
One of the many electric bikes ridden at Sunday Parkways on June 26th. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

E-bikes are to transportation what Steph Curry is to basketball*. They have changed the game. And there’s no going back.

The e-bike revolution has been building for years, but it feels like the scales have tipped even more lately due to better and cheaper products on the market, high gas prices, climate change concerns, a growing anti-car movement, a desire for more community-centered mobility, and many other factors.

As I see a larger and larger percentage of Portland’s fleet electrify, it feels like our best practices and transportation policies haven’t kept up. For decades, bike planners have used a playbook that was created with non-electric (also called “acoustic”) bikes in mind. Put another way, all our modeling and assumptions around how to design and engineer a bike-friendly city have been done with a standard, non-electric bike in mind. 

But e-bikes are different from their non-motorized cousins. Do they require a different planning approach?

I’ve kept a list of bike planning topics that might need to evolve in order to better serve e-bike riders. Give it a read and let me know if you have something to add…

Time and Distance

traffic sign with destinations and biking distance
These estimates were made prior to the revolution.

It’s easier to go faster on an e-bike, so I think it’s reasonable to assume that most people go faster on an e-bike than a conventional bike. Most e-bikes have a 20 mph top speed, but many of them top out at 28. (Another category goes even faster, but I don’t consider those “bikes” for purposes of this discussion.)

The folks at Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) use an average cycling speed of about 10-12 mph to make all their assumptions about time and distance. Why does this matter? Well, you know those handy wayfinding signs (right) on neighborhood greenways that tell you how far away something is and how long it will take you to bike there? Those assume you ride about 10 mph. (And don’t get me started about how Google and Apple need to have an “E-bike” route option in order to display accurate trip times.)

Signal timing is another big one. Portland has many bike signals, and even more traffic signals that take biking speeds into account. If those calculations are based on people riding 10-12 mph, PBOT’s timings won’t be properly synced to actual behaviors.

The average speed of Portland’s bike fleet has gone up — and will continue to go up — in the coming years. Our bike-specific infrastructure should reflect these higher speeds not just out of respect for accuracy, but because when it comes to choosing a transportation mode, speed matters. Faster bike trip times will make cycling more competitive with driving and will encourage more people to ride.

Route Choices

Streets like NE Prescott, with ample shoulder space but no bike lane, are much more feasible on an e-bike.

A big part of local bike planning is deciding where the “bike route” should go. In Portland, many of those decisions are based on the riding behaviors of people on non-electric bikes. 

But e-bikes can completely change where and how someone rides. Their larger size, hefty stature, stronger brakes, bigger tires, and so on, embue riders with a greater sense of power than traditional bikes. Add the ease of greater speeds, and you have a vehicle that balances out the power dynamic on the road in a way that adds new confidence to some riders.

Taking off from a stop at a large, sketchy intersection with a load of cargo? No problem on an e-bike. Taking the lane to make a left turn? No problem on an e-bike. Sharing the road with car users? Less of a problem on an e-bike.

When I’m in a hurry on my e-bike, I don’t use designated bike routes as much as I used to. I want the most direct route I can find. And because my bike gives me more confidence to ride in traffic with car users, I find myself on collectors (like NE Prescott or SE Belmont), commercial district streets (N Mississippi, 28th, Hawthorne, NE Alberta) and even arterials (MLK/Grand, Lombard), much more often. 

Big crossings, hills, or busy streets that used to be the death knell of a recommended bike route and cause planners to scribble circuitous routes around them. But with e-bikes, we should expand our map and be less afraid to mix cars and bikes.

What would our bike maps look like if we assumed more people were using e-bikes? I think we’d have a lot more direct routes and shorter travel time estimates, both of which would make bicycling even more attractive than driving for more people.

Parking

E-bikes need to be plugged in sometimes. They are heavier, and they often have a much larger footprint than traditional bikes. Their frame tubes also have wider diameters. These are all things bike parking designs need to take into account.

For instance, hook racks are relatively popular in our city. TriMet uses them on MAX and they’re probably the most popular offering for apartment/condo builders because of how they save floor space. Hooks have always been bad in terms of accessibility, but with many e-bikes weighing 55-70 pounds, they are 100% unusable for most people. 

And if you thought people were concerned about bike theft with a $750 commuter bike, wait until they drop $3-4,000 on an e-bike! In the e-bike future, folks will simply not ride to a destination that doesn’t have secure bike parking. 

Misc.

Other stuff that we need to adjust to the revolution include:

  • Education and maintenance: Any nonprofit or government agency that offers bike clinics needs to be ready to answer questions about battery storage, charging, and other e-bike tech.
  • Street design: We already offer constrained infrastructure too many parts of our bike network. I’m talking about unnecessary chicanes, awkward transitions from street-to-sidewalk, bollards on paths, and so on. With larger e-bikes (especially the cargo variety), these things create even larger barriers to use.

That’s my list so far. I’m sure I’ll add to it in the coming months and years. What do you think? How else should our best practices and assumptions change to fully embrace this revolution?


*Steph Curry, a member of several NBA championship teams with the Golden State Warriors, changed the game of basketball by introducing a level of proficiency with long-distance shots (“3-pointers”) that was previously unheard of. As the greatest shooter ever he has influenced how everyone plays and coaches the game.

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Maria
2 months ago

I’m so glad folks can be on two wheels instead of in cars. I want all bodies to be able to access the outdoor transportation and fun that bikes and ebikes have to offer.

But…here’s my “kids off my lawn” rant. I’m sure people will hate me for saying so, but I’m also sure I am not alone in this sentiment. As a solely acoustic bicycle user, and a car-free person, I’ve increasingly struggled on what used to feel like safe spaces for me (ie the bike path, the bike lane). Now, in addition to the danger of cars, I have to contend with other bike lane or bike path users on machines that are much faster and much heavier than me & my bicycle. It’s not much fun riding 12mph and getting passed by ebikers going 30mph. I know that’s not allowed but it’s happening, and it’s happening a lot. The last time I rode to Boring, the majority of path users were on ebikes, steamrolling me and passing dangerously close.

As the ebike revolution (which I thought would not be motorized heh heh) progresses, it’s likely more and more of those riders will have had little or no acoustic bike experience. As I get older and slower and more vulnerable to injury, and more of my encounters in the bike lane or bike path are with motorized users who may not have awareness of what it’s like to be passed at twice your speed and may not have bike handling skills created from riding acoustic bikes, it’s leading to a scarier world than I’d hoped I’d been working to help build here in Portland. Le sigh.

It feels like the wins bicycle advocates have made here over the years are now benefiting a different group and leaving some of us behind. There’s likely no way to address this without building an entire second set of infrastructure for human powered vehicles only. Of course that sounds ridiculous – probably just as ridiculous as it sounded to car drivers when bicycles demanded safe infrastructure in the past.

I guess all I can do is to ask ebikers to please slow down when passing and/or please give a wide wake to those of us still on acoustic bikes. And, oh yeah, please don’t pass on the right when a rider is turning right and signaling right (this is oddly common!). Thanks for reading, hope I haven’t ticked anyone off too much.

Two wheels, one love.

.

pigs
pigs
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

Well said. We need enforcement. We need wider bike spaces. We need people to be more respectful.

ED
ED
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

Comment of the week!

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

There seems to be a strong correlation between incompetent/reckless riding, and ebike ownership.

Phil
Phil
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

Agreed. They are *able* to ride fast before they’ve built the wisdom to do so safely. I’m not anti-eBike – At All! – but when I’m trying to avoid a toddler chasing a ball into the multi-use path and an enormous ebike is close-passing me at 28mph without thinking there might be a reason I slow and swerve… There’s a problem.

Scared of Mammals
Scared of Mammals
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

Absolutely. Your average Ebiker on a 300Watt assist machine with a 1500 watt peak is like handing the keys to a 750cc or more sportbike to a sixteen year old kid who just got his license and has all of 12 hours on a 250…
Most of the shloobs I see on ebikes HAVE NO BUISNESS doing 20+ mph among other path users and cyclists. No handling skills, poor braking disapline, no focus or situational awareness.
I’m a competitive CAT3 road rider – I stay off bikeways… because I’m just too damn fast. And path users are UNPREDICTABLE. At least cars you can (mostly) count on to do “car things” pets on leashes, squirrelly kids on scooters, and jumpy joggers that dart into your path as soon as they hear your freewheel clicking is normal on a pathway. Ebikers don’t have that wisdom. They think “oh i can unload 300+ watts here because ima bike! I can do whatever I want”

I’m not a fan of Ebikes – but different strokes for different strokes I guess…

Personally I’d like to see some improvements and enforcement of clearance laws for regular riders before we start catering to Ebikers… just saying most cities have a long way to go just making roads safe for regular bikes.
Regular bikes were here first – protect and improve for them… then we can talk about ebikes.

Lynn
Lynn
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

100% agree. My prime example is the part of the Springwater south from OMSI along the river. Overpowered, reckless ebikers have made it less like a nice, relaxing jaunt by the river and more like another street where I have to be hyper alert, especially on weekends. But I did see an osprey yesterday, and am getting my bike converted next week because of my creaky knees.

LCinLA
LCinLA
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

Part of what the article is saying is that infrastructure needs to change to allow ebikes and traditional bikes to co-exist. I ride an ebike and am regularly passed by spandex-clad peloton riders who think going 30mph on a bike path is perfect acceptable. Speed limits should be enforced on everyone.

Brent
Brent
2 months ago
Reply to  LCinLA

I agree with this. I’m an ebike user as well and I rarely exceed 15 mph since I distance travel, use minimal power assist and I equally distrust high speed bikes, cars and pedestrians. My ebike is a work vehicle– not a toy– and I need it to do day-to-day tasks. A lot of people are starting to do the same thing. The US government needs to recognize– on both a local and federal level– that *bikes in general* are becoming car replacements for a lot of people and need to provide the infrastructure, rules and requirements to make sure that they can perform their functions in a safe and effective manner. The current ‘nowhere to ride’ and ‘ineffectively wave your hands at people who likely don’t notice you and don’t know what you’re trying to communicate even if they are’ system is just unsafe across the spectrum.

Bluntly speaking, I think a lot of this could be solved by adding concrete dividers in the middle of 2-lane roads and making the left lane a wide bike-only path. It’s a fast, cheap and relatively effective solution that allows more bikes to travel faster in a controlled, sanctioned and monitored environment. While I think that MFD use is still fair, I do think that the EU and California took the right steps by limiting ebikes to class 1 and 2. 20 mph on a bike is already dangerous for the rider and those nearby, more than that is unnecessary, even for longer distance utility travel (40 miles on a bike is going to hurt, no matter how you cut it).

Sarah
Sarah
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

I agree with ebikes and safty concerns. I am 72 and started biking the rail trails on an acoustic bike five years ago. However because we wanted to do the longer rail trails across the country my husband and i after a lot of research bought two pedal assist bikes with relatively small motors and NO throttle. We wanted to feel like we were still biking and not riding a motorized vehicle and yet know after 20 miles of riding we could turn around and still get beack. In our search we learned a lot. Inexperienced bikers are acquiring bikes too heavy, too big, and too fast for their level of physical fitness and their skill of bike riding. The pedal assist modes on these rear hub bikes are set to go a minimum speed… ie ecomode in Aventon minimum speed is 12 miles per hour. 12 miles per hour may seem average or even slow to the experienced road cyclist. But this is fast for the older person who has been sedentary but now wants to get out and exercise. And i believe seeing who is at the ebike stores and on the rail trails this is the profile of most of the purchasers of the throttle assist 20 or 28 mile per hour bikes. I know people who want to commute on bike will disagree, but i have learned that those who are experienced cyclist who use bikes for commuting really like their acoustic bikes. Bottom line: There are going to be more biking accidents due to the ebikes and inexperienced riders on inproper fitted bikes. We need good wide bike lanes for road travel,bike paths and rail trails that go between towns and cities. We need to keep the same biking rules of the road as we have now for acoustic bikes because regardless ebike or acoustic bike they are all bikes. We need better education of the consumer. As it is now the education is all geared to marketing and sale of bike. Very little discussion as to matching bike to size, experience and type of use. I believe the people who buy the ebikes with throttels that go 20 or 28 miles per hour without pedalling need to have a a required education course on the rules of the road and safety . The ebikes or all bikers that we have met on the rail trails are all very nice, i teresting and respectfull. But so many of the ebikers are 50 or older, trying to get into shape and on bikes that are really too big, too heavy, and too fast for their skill level of biking that accidents are going to happen and will involve other bikers unfortunately.

MC
MC
2 months ago
Reply to  Maria

I’m sure everyone’s biking experience is different. I’m a bike courier in SE / Downtown. I’m usually biking on the streets twice a day. I agree w. Maria’s comments but I personally have had more problems w. scooters, motorists, especially gig delivery / ride hail drivers & others who park in the bike lanes.

What scares me is the groups of motorcycles/ATVs, one-wheelers, riding in large groups. Many of them don’t exercise the same caution & consideration as group bike rides.

As I understand it, the width of most bike lanes in Portland are not to the current national standard. If they were, they could easily accommodate manual & electric bikes and have signs/markings for faster traffic to pass on the side of the lane closest to the car traffic lane like on N. Williams as you ride North over the bridge.

PBOT seems to be reducing car traffic lanes in SE & Downtown, hopefully that’s continue & maybe someday cars only get 1 lane and all the other road users get more space.

It’s certainly a more chaotic experience biking around town not just with more road users but also changing infrastructure

SDR
SDR
2 months ago

Great article that raises good questions. I am 68 years-old and have been riding bikes for 60 years. I live in the SW Hills and own both a cis bike and now an e-bike.

The e-bike is indeed a game changer. I can once again go on a 30-mile ride knowing that getting back up my hill is not so arduous that I opt not to venture out in the first place. I use bike lanes and open road. I understand and use riding etiquette.

I appreciate that some inexperienced e-riders ride too fast. Much like testosterone-fueled “experienced “ cis-riders blow by people all the time.

Let’s just lighten up on all the e-bike hating. There’s plenty of room for everyone

Pockets the Coyote
Pockets the Coyote
2 months ago

I’ve invested far too much time in hunting down and servicing away creaks and other sounds my bikes have made to just accept them being called acoustic now that some are electric. If we don’t push back on this trend now, just think of how many mechanics and shop staff will have to deal with people wandering in and attempting to play stairway to heaven on the new bikes.

Pockets the Coyote
Pockets the Coyote
2 months ago

More seriously though, finding solutions to prevent theft needs to be near the top of the list IMO. Cars are more difficult to steal, but even then the approach when that does happen seems to be “if it turns up we’ll let you know” which feels unacceptable to me, but I’m also not sure of the best alternative. Locks can only be so robust before being too cumbersome for practical use, etc. I do think if we remove the demand for theft, investing in a free and public bike share, then we may see numbers drop.

Milton Jones
Milton Jones
2 months ago

Most bikes are stolen permanently from individuals for $$$. When bikes are stolen temporarily so the thief can get somewhere it’s more often a ride share bike that was already available. Thieves are thieves.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
2 months ago

“No Stairway!? ”
“Stairway, DENIED!”

David Burns
David Burns
2 months ago

Is “organic” a better description of bikes that are purely human powered?

David Hampsten
2 months ago
Reply to  David Burns

How about “lithium-free”?

Rain Waters
Rain Waters
2 months ago
Reply to  David Burns

Call em anything cept what they are, electric mopeds ?

GorgeDon
GorgeDon
2 months ago
Reply to  Rain Waters

I call my non-motorized mountain bike my “Me Bike”, because it is powered by me.

Megan Ramey (Contributor)
2 months ago
Reply to  David Burns

At the Ebike Summit in Tucson this past October, they had a group conversation on what non-ebikes should be called. Overwhelmingly it was “acoustic”, followed by “analog”.

Kyle Banerjee
2 months ago

I’ll go out on a limb and guess you refuse to use the words “acoustic toothbrush” and “acoustic skillet” — get with the times!

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
2 months ago

A lot of the things you described accurately describe a strong rider on a recumbent trike.

With heavy Marathon pluses, all my commuting gear and not being in top shape I averaged over 17mph on my ride from Goose Hollow to Clackamas this morning. All route finding stuff *always* gets the time way off.

Narrow entrances to bike paths (the one just south of the Sellwood bridge is just a couple inches wider than my 32″ max width) along with unnecessary turns limiting how far ahead you can see all limit the usefulness of a lot of bike paths – to the point where (in conjunction with the first point) I prefer roadways to bike paths much of the time (much as an E-Bike rider probably will).

For MAX I rigged a loop on my trike boom and am able to hang it on a MAX hook rear tire down. It weighs about 40-45lbs with all my stuff on it (tipped up on its back wheel my trike takes up less floor space than a bike on its back wheel) – but then I’m a big strong guy. I’ve seen many a person unable to lift a heavy cruiser style bike or MTB and get it on a hook. Worse are bikes with fatter tires that people can’t even get through a hook.

So, finding ways to address many of the things you’ve pointed out helps more than just e-Bike riders. We do, however, need to be careful to maintain all the accessibility for people on “acoustic” bikes as well though.

qqq
qqq
2 months ago

Also like Steph Curry due to the increased activity from deep downtown.

But also like LeBron James due to all the traveling.

PTB
PTB
2 months ago
Reply to  qqq

Please use Lillard next time. This isn’t California, qqq. You’re in Portland. I’ll accept the Bron line however.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  PTB

Please use another metaphor entirely for those of us not in the sportsball cult (I appreciate that Maus at least gave a footnote to explain the reference).

PTB
PTB
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Sportsball cult. Derp, good one we haven’t heard before. Not all the comments are for you, Matt.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  PTB

And apparently my comment was not for you either, cult member. (or WAS IT?! (dramatic musical sting)

Dave Snyder
Dave Snyder
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Just a little aside… rooting for someone or some team in a sporting contest is a global phenomenon and very natural to humans across (almost?) all cultures. Whether it’s basketball, or rugby, or cricket, or football, or “football”, or roller derby (go Rose City Rollers!), or the ancient Olympics, it’s a thing that deserves respect. I have a pet peeve against the ridicule you’re expressing against people who choose to admire the teamwork and athleticism involved in team sports, and who can bond together over something, however trivial. In fact, it’s that very aspect that brings me to be a team sports fan. I get to care a lot about something that is not at all important and which I can do nothing about. Everything else I care a lot about is very important and I can do something about it but I’m not very successful usually so it can be depressing (see, climate change). Sports fandom is a wonderful and healthy release, and I wish you would at least disguise your disdain if you can’t respect it.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  Dave Snyder

Respect is earned, not given. Sports fanatics have done nothing to earn my respect and plenty to lose it.

Bonding over group identity is just xenophobia with lipstick. Prove me wrong.

pigs
pigs
2 months ago

I got an ebike a couple months ago. It is a game changer living in the SW hills. It makes trips to the east side a lot more do-able.

> Time and Distance

I noticed that I tend to ride around ~15mph on flat ground. It has turned a 45 minute ride into a 40 minute ride (and arriving barely breaking a sweat). I think keeping the current signal timing would be most equitable as those that don’t have an ebike will still be able to have the benefit of good signal timing. I don’t think wayfinding signs should change either for the same reason and it is not to hard too figure out how much time you should subtract.

> Route Choices

It has most certainly opened up routes I would have previously ignored. What do you mean by “less afraid to mix cars and bikes”? That sounds not good, I don’t want to have to behave like a car. We shouldn’t expect people to take the lane for left turns. Doing so requires a lot of confidence in riding ability, is prone to sitting in traffic during congestion, and puts you in a very vulnerable location. I’m all for more direct routes having better infrastructure.

> Parking

Absolutely needs to improve. Maybe there needs to be a standard in the city code to address this? The bike rack at my local hardware store is a low profile wheel rack. With the added weight of a motor and battery, it puts a lot of pressure on the wheel. Plus, they can’t accommodate wide tires more common on ebikes. And since you can only lock it to the wheel, theft is easy. The city at a minimum should require a standard bike rack so that all destinations will have a convenient place to easily lock the frame to.

Aaron H
Aaron H
2 months ago
Reply to  pigs

I agree, especially on the time and distance thing. Given that it’s unlikely for ebikes to completely replace all conventional bikes due to the different price points, I can imagine that if wayfinding and signal timing assumed that the rider is on an ebike, that would leave a lot of people behind. I wouldn’t want someone on a non-ebike panicking in an intersection because the light turned red faster than anticipated. If anything, longer green lights for bikes of all types would tilt things in favor of bikes, electric or otherwise. As for wayfinding, a potential solution could be to have estimated times for both ebikes and Stairway to Heaven bikes (sorry, Pockets the Coyote). Perhaps have the estimated ebike time in parentheses next to the conventional bike time and in a different color?

Paul H
Paul H
2 months ago
Reply to  pigs

With the added weight of a motor and battery, it puts a lot of pressure on the wheel.

Probably not though. In comparison to a bike loaded with a rider and payload, this isn’t a stress I’d be concerned with.

Peter S.
Peter S.
2 months ago

Some good observations but I chafe a bit at the suggestion that suggested routes should change based on more people riding ebikes.

IMO routes need to be accessible for all, as there will always be people who stick to acoustic bikes, either by choice or necessity. If infrastructure gets shifted to routes that are only safe/accessible to ebike riders, then acoustic riders get left out.

Ebike-specific route infrastructure could be a good idea if it is in addition to fully-accessible routing. But it seems like active transportation of all kinds has to fight over a relatively small pool of resources compared to cars, so dedicating money to ebike infra would likely be a net negative for people on regular bikes.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  Peter S.

Bingo! Catering to ebikes in detriment to bikes is nothing less than gentrification.

X
X
2 months ago

…engineer a bike-friendly city…
There’s no vault full of lessons learned about how to engineer for human powered machines. Bad transitions, small radius turns, chicanes, rough pavement and small gaps between obstacles that offer a 20mph hard stop if you hit them are every day trials in Portland. Speed bumps as a standard feature of bike routes? That’s not exactly catering to human power.

The bike that people will ride the most is the one that’s most useful for the trips they take daily. I have one bike with road grime, another with tires actually up to pressure, and three covered with dust. I’d say most people would be happy (and ride more) if they sell up their various bikes and get one solid ebike with some cargo capacity and about 50 mile range at medium power.

I’m not impressed by the way some folks use their ebikes but if everybody gets one I’ll have a much better selection of places to ride.

Dubs
2 months ago

I don’t mind e-bikes if they only assist on hills and 15mph is a fine maximum. The current motorized bike is more motorcycle than cycle IMO. Just like other earlier comments, I am encouraged by more people using modes other than cars. I have had long discussions with fellow cyclists and we don’t mind if you need electrics to keep you “up to speed” with the flow of bike traffic but to completely pass everything non-motorized in the bike lane regardless of fitness is a bit silly. I enjoy the pace, the time to converse and see life pass ya by!

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
2 months ago
Reply to  Dubs

As someone who can regularly ride 20+ on the flat (especially on my fast trike & high racers) without a motor, I think an arbitrary limit of 15mph because of the source of the power is pretty ridiculous.

If, by chance, I ever find a Milan GT at a reasonable price I’ll be able to cruise at 25-30 on flats in a 60lb vehicle without an e-assist (people I know with them are regularly stopped by police until the local PD becomes familiar with them and the fact that they are unpowered).

The way to operate those is to move to the vehicle lane on the flats and use the bike lanes when grades slow you down to bike speeds.

If there were enough moped like vehicles out there (under 500lbs loaded gross curb weight, able to go 30 easily and narrow enough for a 5-6 foot lane to suffice) then the optimal thing would be a Light Vehicle lane for them. You’d get 2 for every regular width vehicle lane you replaced and move the threat they pose out of the bike lanes.

Lynn
Lynn
2 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

IDK if you use Williams/Vancouver, but if so you seem like someone who moves to the car lane when whizzing by us old slowpokes. I wish all fast riders & racers doing training would do the same..Or at least sing out warnings when passing.

ED
ED
2 months ago

I’ve seen some planning and policy documents discussing the idea of “micro mobility lanes” or “small vehicle lanes” meant to be inclusive of bike, e-bikes, scooters, cargo trikes, etc. To me it comes down to size of the lanes and the speed differentials. Maybe there’s an equation by which the greater the speed differential between vehicles expected to mix in the lane (say, 10mph to 30mph), the wider the lane needs to be, to give more room for safe passing and natural sorting of slower vehicles to the right. I mean, if there are more and more people using small vehicles rather than cars/trucks, there can be more road space allocated! I don’t think it’s enough to just leave bike lanes and infrastructure the same size but expect it to be used by more and more varied types of vehicles.

How about we use the power of induced demand for good for once?? Instead of adding more lanes for cars and watching them fill with more traffic, let’s add more lanes for not-cars and watch them fill up!

Mick O
Mick O
2 months ago

I appreciate the positivity of the article, and you’ve suggested some great things that would benefit all micromobility users. But there are some other aspects to the e-bike boom that have the potential to actively degrade the experience for the old-timey “acoustic” cyclist. Some examples:

1. Will increased speeds bring more calls for helmet laws? What are the chances that any helmet law would only apply to e-bike riders?
1b) How about compulsory licensing?

2) What sort of inevitable high-speed incident might cause lawmakers to re-think the so-called Idaho stop for cyclists?

3) Many municipalities allow/encourage cyclists use sidewalks (See Waterhouse Trail Gap) With the speed/size of ebikes, I can imagine some local governments changing this and telling all bikes to use the lane, saying that “Well they all go 25mph now, so no biggie.”

Nuanced planning and intelligent policymaking could, of course, answer the inevitable answers to the above cases: “Well, just make sure the planning/law accounts for different kinds of bikes.” I hope that ends up being true, but in your calls for new approaches to planning to account for ebikes, I would caution us to “Be careful what you wish for.” There may come some situations where you have to ask yourself what planning tradeoffs to acoustic bike access you’re willing to trade away to account for ebikes. There may be some serious tradeoffs in ebike-aware planning that you don’t expect that end up make riding an acoustic bike even harder than it is now.

dwk
dwk
2 months ago

If this is a “Revolution”, its a pretty lame one… Bike use (regular and e-bike) continues to fall in Portland…How are they considered a Success?

maxD
maxD
2 months ago

I would expand the design changes a bit:
1) Corners on MUPs: larger radii for faster bikes or adding speed advisory signs. I saw a moped rider wipe out taking the curves along Lombard (at N Ramsey) too fast.
2) no more wheel gutters- maybe widespread moped use will get the City to FINALLY commit to using ramps for universal accessibility and stop relying on wheel gutters and cheap elevators.

maxD
maxD
2 months ago

I know we don’t get a vote, but here is my vote to never use the term “acoustic bike” again! It is like nails on a chalkboard. What is wrong with just calling them bikes or bicycles, and if they have a motor use E-bike or moped?

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  maxD

***comment deleted by moderator JM***

Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Editor
Reply to  Watts

Sometimes you are soo funny …

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I think this moderation decision deserves an explanation.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago

I don’t think you fully appreciate the power and impact of it

You are right — I don’t. I took a term that others apply to me (without asking), and which we’re told is just a harmless Latin prefix used to differentiate one thing from another, and applied to an analogous terminology problem. Is that particular prefix now so tainted that it cannot be applied outside of the situation we’re (not) discussing?

Many people object to that term being used to describe them, objections which are often dismissed. To find my comment harmful discredits the rhetoric that defends applying that term to those who don’t want it.

That said, I understand you wanting to avoid instigating another twitter pile-on because you failed to censor “improper” (though hardly hateful, noxious, or even rude) speech. It’s probably better to avoid some tender areas altogether.

 Also, it just didn’t add anything valuable to the conversation or topic.

Well, it was funny, and certainly in line with other attempts to find clever ways of differentiating bikes from e-motorbikes. To the extent the surrounding comments had value, mine did too.

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
2 months ago
Reply to  maxD

One day of forced polka music – one song, repeated- without relief for every single utterance of ‘acoustic’ to describe a bicycle.

qqq
qqq
2 months ago
Reply to  maxD

“What is wrong with just calling them bikes or bicycles, and if they have a motor use E-bike or moped?”

I’m sympathetic to that. On the other hand, a few years ago the discussion could have been, “What’s wrong with calling them phones, and if they’re portable calling them cell phones or mobile phones?”

At some point, it made sense to call the new thing a “phone” and the old one a “land line”. I can see the (perhaps sad) day when “bike” will commonly mean a motorized one. In the meantime, maybe some term will take over from “acoustic”.

ivan
ivan
2 months ago

I agree with most of your analysis and in the places where accommodations need to be made (such as path entrances and turning radii) I agree that e-cargo-bike dimensions should be taken into account.

I don’t personally feel threatened or at risk having e-bikes and human-powered bikes in the same physical infrastructure, but insofar as I think bicycle infrastructure needs to be improved anyway, I’d certainly support wider protected bike lanes to allow for passing when desired.

However, I think for things like bike distance estimates and bike route planning, there needs to continue to be an option for human-powered bikes. I agree with Peter S. upthread that our routes should accommodate everyone regardless of ability or income (the cost of e-bikes continuing to be a major barrier).

In situations like distance signage and route planning both options could be offered. But for something like bike signal timing, I think we should err on the side of being inclusive to the slowest users. In the same way that we (should) expect a walk signal to allow an 80-year-old to have enough time to cross, not only younger people/stronger people/people in electric assistive devices, our bicycle infrastructure should accommodate everyone.

Inclusive design when applied to sidewalks, for instance, justifies accessible ramps because they improve the situation for all and don’t restrict the use to privileged users who can step on/off a curb. In this situation I’d see e-bikers as the privileged users of the group, and so while policy and infrastructure should include them it shouldn’t preclude use by others.

tl;dr Provide both e-bike and human-powered options when possible but in situations where we have to choose, accommodate the slower group.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago

I will continue to die a little inside every time somebody uses the godawful phrase “acoustic bike”. If you insist on not just calling them “bikes” like we’ve been doing for over a century, I will grudgingly countenance “muscle bike” as an occasionally useful retronym.

Granpa
Granpa
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt

A well maintained bicycle should be quite as a breeze. Squeaky chain, screeching brakes or rattling bearings comprise an acoustic bike and are markers of the owner’s laziness.

Paul H
Paul H
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

are markers of the owner’s laziness.

…or lack of economic resources (money, time, or both)

Granpa
Granpa
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul H

People find time for the things they value and the streets of Portland provide abundant evidence that people without economic resources can maintain bicycles. The point is that the name “acoustic bicycle” is an insult to people who appreciate the quiet efficiency of a well maintained bike.
“Fetch is not going to happen “

Paul H
Paul H
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

Oops. My bad. Shouldn’t have ever engaged here.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
2 months ago
Reply to  Granpa

Actually, all bikes make noise, you just don’t sit close enough to the contact patch to notice on a DF.

On my trike there is

  • the hum of tires on the ground
  • the thrum of the idler under high torque
  • the brief click-clack of a clean shift
  • the shirrrrr of metallic pads on a rotor while braking for a corner
  • the creak of the seat mesh when I lean into hard corners

Quite the symphony actually.

Megan Ramey (Contributor)
2 months ago
Reply to  Matt

The origin of “acoustic” can be somewhat traced to the People for Bikes ebike summit last October. They asked the crowd what we can call non-ebikes because a lot of people say “normal bikes” which is demeaning to those who see their ebike as normal.

EP
EP
2 months ago

It’s not going to be very long until ebikes have NAV units built into their controls/displays. Those will give all kinds of info on routes, wayfinding and travel times. A lot of people already have this with smartphones and handlebar mounts. Mine’s in my pocket, but I still use it for finding my way around when headed somewhere new. Remember those “special” smaller, credit-card-sized/folding paper citywide bike maps? Yeah, wasn’t that long ago but oh how things have changed…

Kyle Banerjee
2 months ago

I’m not sure about the revolution. Mopeds, scooters,and low powered motorcycles caused no revolution. Simply changing the motor type doesn’t change what they’re good for.

Except for people who genuinely use bikes as serious transportation (only a small percentage). I see most out for just a few months and then they disappear.

Not sure where the “acoustic” term comes from but it needs to go. Ebike has a modifier, no modifier necessary otherwise.

Legal ebikes are not fast — which is why you can ride them without a motorcycle endorsement. So not sure what justification there is for changing infrastructure.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago

Please… just call them what they are: motorbikes.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Only because Americans need bigger faster stronger.

A euro spec e-assist (topping out a 250w) is still in the human power range. In my more irascible moments I think that only bikes with 250w or less of assist should be allowed to use bike infra. Anything over should be DOT certified, licensed and operate with other motor vehicles.

Then I remind myself that the more bike like things on the roads, the better of we all are.

Last summer I left a fat tire E-bike behind while riding my high racer doing 25+. I got caught at a long light and the guys was suitably impressed.

Makes turning 55 a little easier to take 🙂

Scared of Mammals
Scared of Mammals
2 months ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

With a 350W FTP – I can destroy (most) people that ride a pedal assist bike until we get in the mountains… then it becomes more or less a “fair fight”

Of course, that does only work if they haven’t jailbroken its speed and assist wattage limiters.

I do take pleasure in ROFL stomping the occasional Ebiker who tries to draft me – since they rarely understand pack etiquette and never ask if its ok to ride my wheel.

Scott Bravmann
Scott Bravmann
2 months ago

If ebikes make it so you don’t need to follow a designated bike path, make you feel more secure taking the lane to turn left, reduce steep hills to molehills, and make starting with a heavy load less of an issue, why do you need infrastructure changes?
Just ride with the cars, go where you want, and zip along without sweating.
I’m not suggesting ebikes have no utility, but I also think part of our problem is the fixation on speed. Sure, most people have too little time to do too many things, but motorized “revolutionaries” can take to the streets and leave bike lanes and suggested routes for the mellower acoustic set.
I live in San Francisco. As I recall from my two visits to Portland, our hills are steeper. I could schlepp my child on my Yuba Mundo all the way to a friend’s house near the top of Twin Peaks five years ago. I don’t know that I could now (we’re both older). Yes, it took an hour up and fifteen minutes down. And I only have one kid.
When I was in high school, I used to run 80 to 100 miles per week. I always used the street because I didn’t think running on the sidewalk (8 to 10 mph) was a good (or fair) idea. In San Francisco, most streets have a maximum speed of 25 mph. Some areas have a maximum speed of 20 mph. If you’re Zoomoing or van Moofing along at that speed and are unwilling to respect “traditional” biking speeds, stay out of the bike lane.

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
2 months ago

As others have noted, ebikes are not bicycles, they are electric mopeds. Instead of a traditional moped’s 2-stroke gas/oil engine, ebikes have motors powered by electricity generated by (in Oregon as of 2020) 38.91% hydropower, 26.47% coal, 21.50% natural gas, 7.01% wind, 3.47% nuclear, 1.67% solar, and less than 1% of other sources. Actual bicycles are powered by whatever you had for breakfast. The term “acoustic bike” is nothing short of ridiculous and makes me want to immediately dismiss anything else said by anyone who uses it.

Kyle Banerjee
2 months ago

…Our bike-specific infrastructure should reflect these higher speeds not just out of respect for accuracy, but because when it comes to choosing a transportation mode, speed matters

What would our bike maps look like if we assumed more people were using e-bikes? I think we’d have a lot more direct routes and shorter travel time estimates, both of which would make bicycling even more attractive than driving for more people….

The irony is that this particular website historically treats people who use bikes for more than trivial distances as elitists if they raise the speed issue.

Speed does matter, and the best way to deal with that is to ride the roads since they go everywhere and sight lines are significantly better. Riding too far right at speed even on empty paths is a recipe for disaster because threats from the side are much harder to see (and there’s less time to respond to them) plus you’re at greater risk for a right hook or left cross from drivers since you’re out of their line of sight. The more people ride on the roads, the more cycling as transportation is normalized which makes the roads more rideable.

I’m not on board with ebikes on paths where people walk. Cyclist etiquette in PDX is disgraceful — too many ride dangerously close to peds as well as other cyclists while maintaining virtually no situational awareness. One of the specific reasons I ride roads is simply to not have to deal with those types.

A J Zelada
2 months ago

Bikes are the canaries of the transportation system. Cycles have been at the front of our fossil fuel system since the 1890s pointing out the successes and failures of people getting from one place to another.

Your thinking (Maus) is a great start to policy level decision making that needs to happen for our street scapes. And maybe the ebike is the cockatiel.

We still need to think of street behavior as behavior not by strength of rider nor by battery strength. Our problems are not the Mode, it is the Behavior of Humans.

When we make judgements about exclusion / inclusion it needs to be by behavior not by mode. In the past 15-20 years, we have such an increased democracy of vulnerable users on the road, we need to adjust our design scape. This is such a struggle. Putting the vulnerable user at the top of the transportation triangle is still resonating poorly among the large culture. Our culture still rewards the speed, the speeder, even cyclists state “the faster commute without sweat with an ebike”…speed is still the high spot of desire.

Single bike lanes: When you look at designs for the next Burnside Bridge quake readiness people are still designing bike lanes with a single rider along side with a single car in each designated lane. This is just absurd and it is an inheritance of piecemeal approach to how planners think people move. I am so thankful that the ebike simply has so many more people entering our cycling world. It is difficult to get transportation folks to think like Europe with many people queuing up to a stop light and the lane width to accommodate 5-6-7 cyclist, cheek to jowl. This infrastructure ‘picture’ sets the tone of engineers, MURPS degreed people, advocates, bureaucrats, etc. But in the design mode, it portrays the thought of ebike versus wheelchair versus skateboard versus scooter versus pedaler: only one per lane please! This background trickles down to me versus you.
Behavior is controlled by what? I still don’t know. But I think the pandemic has kicked up the narcissism and the ‘I’m the only one on the road’ culture higher and higher. Drivers turning around in the middle of the street, drivers and cyclists ignoring each other, crossing cyclists defiant that they have the right of way, drivers and their vehicles stopping anywhere-anytime, and the pandemic hallmark of entitlement producing increased speed and killing pedestrians, and of course pedestrians crossing in mid-block contributing to their own demise.
When one watches how cyclists overtake others on the path, I still see courtesy more than high testosterone cycling (cis cycle! yes: Watts). I think we need to think transitioning to wider corridors and this seems reinforced by how Maus takes some streets that maybe ‘faster, more congested.’ We need to plan ahead for just that. Again, hate to say this, Other countries do this already. If you have a trail, e.g. Moser tunnels in Hood River, we need to sign the trail that the max speed is X mph. And we need to sign why: “Mixed use” “Courtesy,” “Pedestrians w/ strollers,” and “Wheel chairs on trail.” When you look at this particular trail, you will see wedding parties of 6 or more ebike users tootling down the trail yakking it up. You will see higher speed new ebike users zipping fast weaving in and out beyond their skills. You will see high speed athletic cyclists zipping fast weaving in and out with hopefully skills at avoiding that new cyclist turning around in the middle of the trail. It’s an actual wonderful mix of people out using these great trails but the behavior is so new and the volume of these new users is a growth problem. We need to face these collisions by looking at behavior not the mode. Education for these Back to Bike cyclist is under fulfilled.
Americans love the ‘more is better.’ The Angie Schmitt (read: Right of Way) attitude uncovers this cultural trait so well. She shows how the automotive industry and the Americans who buy the growth hormone produced huge F150 trucks are now an answer to anime’s military Gundam robots. And I must admit that I smirk when I see these hugely over built ebikes mimicking and becoming the new wanna-be F150 and F250 bicycles on the Springwater. And I believe that economists will be able to tell us when the ebike revolution is over by when used ebikes become a significant volume on eBay or Craiglist equivalents. But hopefully that is later. Again this is behavior : if people don’t buy these huge things will people not build them? What makes Americans want more is better or bigger is better?
We still have to understand the economic power that we should be recognized for. In the 1800s we built roads to connect markets, in late 1800 & early 1900s to make a downtown, in the 1950s to kill downtown in sacrifice to building shopping malls, etc. We need to make real connections to places where people go. I think grocery stores are one aspect we need to have strong ‘safe routes to food’ arterials. This concept needs to cohabit with grocery stores. In addition to ADA parking places we need to have 3-4 single vehicle parking places up front near the entrance of the store. These need to accommodate cargo bikes or bikes with both filled panniers’ width AND space for having a trailer. Having real racks that allow parents to disembark their kids and then put kids back on the bike with filled panniers need space. Pre-pandemic research showed that most shoppers at New Seasons bought 10 items or fewer. Ice cream was always touchy: can you get home before it melts? Most cyclists feel their bikes will be safer in front of the store than on the side of the store. In addition to this, closing streets to vehicles bordering burgeoning local one day markets will further increase safe routes to foods. Again…to have a simple set of electric plugs to top of that battery while you shop…would that reward ebikers to use safe routes to foods?
Slow streets are still contentious…and yet when you cycle or walk down these named streets you see more and more people walking/cycling than driving. I sometimes feel that we have a leadership problem or a ‘believe in your self’ problem. In the late 1990s, the Burke-Gillman trail in Seattle faced this ‘problem’ of the huge vocal negativity for wanting the trail go north from the Univ of WA district. And, within 5 yrs, a reporter interviewed people who were so opposed only to find out they used the trail for walking weekly if not daily. We need voices from our community to testify at neighborhood associations. Having the conviction that cycling on an ebike or breakfast powered cycle may get us to the goal of Safer Streets for All perhaps more quickly. Having the certainty in your voice and the passion that cycling makes people better is a trait that not only we can teach but gets confirmed by our infrastructure. Making sure the new e-biker is another component of educating all cyclists.

I apologize for this multi thread -off the cuff approach, but there are so many interweaving concepts, I really want people to think about inclusion of all modes and figure out how to mix modes by looking at behavior first. This is our next step. I still feel pollyanna about Portland: when I see concrete planters making people slow to turn into a neighborhood, when I recently saw the Tilikum counter reach 600 after two years of it tipping in at 300 during the mornings of the week, when I am passing or being passed by 30 people along Willamette Blvd cycle lanes and I still see lots of joy with so many parents using cargo bikes. That feeds my soul. And yes, I am still bummed that TriMet can’t allow a tricycle on the Max…this is a travesty and huge violation of ADA. So I do know: There is so much more to get done. ~AJZ

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
2 months ago

Riding an e-bike since 2014, these points are all true and PBOT has not incorporated these and related suggestions into their designs (e.g. assumptions about uphill bike speed related to visibility at conflict points or lane width.)

The thing is though, that while e-bikes and these particular speed/route conflicts are going to dominate the ridership growth in the coming years, the thing that PBOT should have been building all this time: a high-quality bikeway network that will actually carry 25% of all trips, requires the width to pass a pair riding abreast, not a faux-protected gutter full of trash and broken flex posts. It doesn’t matter so much how many bikes are electric, they simply need to design for the volume of bike traffic that our plans and growth projections say we want to have. Parents and children or others riding together are going to be travelling at different speeds. People riding in a hurry will want to pass, and most won’t want to wait at a red light for a minute or two while 0-3 drivers in climate-controlled cars speed to the next block to wait at their next red light…

Fred
Fred
2 months ago

I just read that the 2nd cycling fatality of 2022 (PPB news release copied below) was on an e-bike.

It’s just a matter of time before e-bikes are regulated like motor vehicles, cuz guess what? – they ARE motorized vehicles (they have a motor).

Oregon DMV, along with every other DMV in the USA, has looked the other way IRT motors on all sorts of vehicles (like scooters), but really they shouldn’t. It’s well past time to require licenses, inspections, you name it, before the next person gets killed.

PPB news release: The bicyclist involved in this crash has been identified as 70-year-old Martin Crommie. His family has been notified of his death.

The Major Crash Team investigation found the cyclist was riding an e-bike northbound in traffic. Once the cyclist moved to the side of the road, the driver of the vehicle involved, a 2021 Toyota Tacoma, began to pass the cyclist. The cyclist then made a sudden left turn for an unknown reason, colliding with the left side of the vehicle.

This was the 32nd traffic fatality for 2022 in the City of Portland, and the second involving a bicycle.

CDD
CDD
2 months ago

Another aspect not talked about: safety. As in wait until the OurTime/SingleAndOver50.com crowd starts breaking bones after a spill from a glorified electric scooter… A fall from a regular bike is nasty, one at 40mph can be deadly, especially with the 100 lbs momentum of one of these… After a certain age, 4 wheels is safer than 2.

GorgeDon
GorgeDon
2 months ago

Why not just get a Class 3 e-bike that is capable of 25mph+ and ride in the same lanes as other motorized vehicles?

That would alleviate the overcrowding and dangerous passing in bike lanes and put the motorized vehicles where they belong. JMOICBW

Dave Snyder
Dave Snyder
2 months ago

Jonathan, I love e-bikes and am a huge proponent. Our organization won a $10 million subsidy program to help low-income Californians buy e-bikes. We support a bill to increase their access to shared paths. And I agree, they have changed the game and we need to respond to take advantage of their potential to grow bicycling.

But I bristle at some of your suggestions. Pedal-powered bikes are here to stay and deserve respect and priority. They are the transportation of last resort for everyone. E-bikes are overkill for short trips of 2-3 miles on flat ground, even for carrying groceries.

If we re-time the lights for e-bikes, and pedal-powered bike riders stuck at the traffic signal, Portland will become less bike-friendly. Try to time the lights for both if you can, but keep priority for pedal speeds. E-bikes can go 12 mph!

Don’t fail to design for 12 mph bike traffic because some (or even most) people are now comfortable going faster and taking the left turn lane because they have an e-bikes. Keep those protected two-stage left turns for slow pedal bike-riders.

Don’t fail to build that route that uses gentle grades because with e-bikes you can tackle a steeper hill.

You and I can advocate for improvements that benefit e-bikes, and we will, but let’s not recommend that we stop doing what we’re doing for pedal bikes. They are still important. Duh. 🙂

Yes to everything else. Those time estimates are cool but probably they’ll have to go, or, be restated as a range.

Duchess Studio Band
Duchess Studio Band
2 months ago

There needs to be a greater sensitivity to ebikes by car drivers. So many people here park in bike lanes, open car doors in bike lanes without even looking. Dangerous. Then there’s the pedestrian problem, people using designated Nike paths to jog or walk, where it is clearly marked for bikes only, with a walkway marked for pedestrians. Then there is just the problem of ebikers and bikers not following traffic laws. They have to. Stopping at traffic lights, and waiting to go on a light.

Milton Jones
Milton Jones
2 months ago

The author has unfortunately hit the nail on the head with Ebikes and pro basketball. The author feels more confident and safer riding an Ebike in traffic. He not actually safer. Riding a heavier bike faster with few skills is really the road to more accidents and ER visits. And yes Steph Curry’s 3 point shooting coupled with the ‘euro step’ did change the game of basketball. And now it sucks. Let’s hope inexperienced riders on Ebikes don’t do the same to cycling.

donfitness
donfitness
2 months ago

It’s time we open up bike paths to motorcycles.

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
2 months ago
Reply to  donfitness

I hope you’re joking, but I’ve already seen minibikes, electric dirt bikes, motor scooters (Vespa like), motorcycles, cars, and vans on the Springwater Trail. I just wonder how many of these are being used for drug trafficking.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
2 months ago
Reply to  donfitness

If they followed rules (a speed limit for just 1) then why not? No, I don’t own a motorcycle and have no interest. If people could follow some basic rules and be courteous it probably wouldn’t be a problem.

But unfortunately, people out there, campers, drivers, cyclists, skate boarders, and even pedestrians have turned the streets and paths into “mad max” zones. Things that used to be the exception are the routine now. I’ve greatly reduced the amount of walking I used to do because of it. Where I used to walk to my local grocery store, I now drive.

Michael J. Koester
Michael J. Koester
2 months ago

I been riding my Lectric XP on the hills of Tennessee for 20 months or 3500 miles and it’s not a bicycle friendly state. Most car owners don’t believe we have the right to be on the road.
They certainly are not as concerned as I am with my safety.
As far as speed goes, 10 miles per hour is an average comfortable speed.
28 miles per hour is not simply a twist of the throttle. It is hard to achieve because it takes so much effort.
Tho I regularly hit speeds of 30 plus just coasting down the bigger hills in the mountains.
I routinely take 18 mile trips to the stores my area,
It saves on gas and is a great exercise.
To show how bicycle friendly or how often you’ll see bicyclists, there is no designated area’s to lock up your bike. But a row of shopping carts or a metal railing will do the job.
I started riding an acoustic bike in Tennessee. The hills make the possibility of going any meaningful distance nearly impossible. My electric bike (Lectric XP) has open up the possibility of running some errands and exploring this beautiful state further.

Dan Watt
Dan Watt
2 months ago

Wow, your article missed THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of electric bikes and how they affect pedestrians and non-motorized cyclist when they are free to intermixed with them.
The problem: SPEED! Followed by the lack of courtesy, education and accountability.

No state will probably govern e-bike speed, hence they must be removed from bike trails and bike lanes which are intended for human powered cycles and pedestrians.

Clearly you entered the cycling community as an electric bike rider not a real cyclist.

In California, even though it is not enforced, motorized vehicles are not allowed on bicycle trails. The reason: SPEED Differential.

Most e-bike riders I have observed are clueless about their surroundings with groups and people that maybe vulnerable to their speed.

Imagine holding the hand of your 5 year old walking along enjoying the surroundings and having an E bike fly by them 18″ off the child’s elbow.

Cyclist and e-bike riders have a better chance of mixing together but certainly not pedestrians with e-bikes, and I see this combination all of time, especially on the beach boardwalks. Most of the time the attitude is get out of my way. Which is hilarious since an E bike can slow down and then regain speed again without any human effort. So there’s no real loss.

Lisa Caballero (Southwest Correspondent)
Editor
Reply to  Dan Watt

Welcome to BikePortland! Beware the sentence which begins with “clearly.” LOL

Jeffrey Alan Hall
2 months ago

Another area that will need further thought and consideration are the countless “no motorized vehicles allowed “ bike paths. Currently, here in Arizona, e bikes are using them, often by riders of limited experience and knowledge of bicycle safety protocol such as the wearing of helmets and use of proper hand signals. These bikes HAVE motors albeit not “combustion “ engines. Do we regulate them as motorized or non-motorized?

Jonathan
Jonathan
2 months ago

My 2 cents. Ebikes are motorized vehicles by definition and should be treated as such by law. They are closer motorbikes, than bicycles. Essentially motorbikes that can be pedaled.

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
2 months ago

I’m curious about something. How many people who decry the lawlessness on our roads, including unlicensed cars and drivers ignoring traffic laws, feel that it is perfectly acceptable to ride ebikes on MUPs that have signs clearly prohibiting motorized vehicles?

VLFberht
VLFberht
2 months ago

You make some great points.. Especially focusing on the cost of these bikes, their weight, and preferences to the road vs bike lanes.. You make great points WHY insurance and registration is becoming a better idea by the day.

Alexander buda
2 months ago

I have an electric copper I was one of the first electric bikes out I have one here in Jersey City no one else had one before me I also have an electric scooter it’s about 2 years later than that the copper is 2005 the bike should be good to ride around for this one thing that everybody overlooking you got cars that pull into can charge your cards up what about putting a station certain amount of distance so we can charge our bikes up and how we pay for that I haven’t figured that one out yet

Alexander buda
2 months ago

Did he makes you good to be used to get around one thing that overlooked and everything but I have the idea of charging the bikes up how would you go about paying to charge them up I don’t know I haven’t worked that out yet I have a 2005 electric chopper it’s one of the first electric bikes out in New Jersey here in Jersey City and I have a six scooter now everybody in my town has them they’re going out like crazy but my chopper is one of a kind and stands out thanks for letting me put this comment out it was truly private Alex Buda army national guard

Lobo
Lobo
2 months ago

I’ve been riding reg bikes since 1968. I’m on my seventh bike. Fuji, 2 treks, 2 cannondale, 1 Giant and 2 great schwins. I got an e-bike two years ago and have always been aggressive. Ribs (11) two wrists, 2 knee caps and now a full knee replacement. 2 rotator surgeries. My ?, are e-bikes much more dangerous. I know for me but the average biker.

Opus the Poet
2 months ago

I have been building e-bikes since the days of 750 Watts and 20 MPH max speed (the old CPSB standards) and at one time had a TX standard of no power max/do the posted speed limit as long as the pedals had to turn to make the bike go. I don’t ride as much anymore since I have multiple hip injuries that make getting on anything but a tadpole trike impossible (I fell out of a yoga pose and ended up sticking my heel in my ear), but e-assist lets me get around a bit. Not much, as the injury I got when the truck hit me is still the primary limitation on riding long distances, but I can get a few miles under my wheels. The mid-drive I built for the old TX standard of only getting assist when the pedals are turning is still my favorite with a 1×10 drivetrain geared for a max of 20 MPH in 10th at 100 crank RPM. I still like to get out on good days that I have some hip mobility and that are also not too hot (the recent 100°+ days here have kept me inside except to walk to the mailbox to get the mail)

Bruce
2 months ago

First manual ‘acoustics’ bikes are not going anywhere so you still need to plan bike paths around them, ebikes still need to conform to those standards, they can go off that path anytime they want just like you stated…but the bike paths should be included in every road… Sadly security will probably never be satisfactory…

James
James
2 months ago

This is no different than the Moped problem in the 80’s and 90’s. These are motorized vehicles and should no t mix with bicycle or pedestrian traffic. They require insurance, registration and licensing. I see people riding what are actually E motorcycles on bike paths. I can see a handicap exception.

Megan Ramey (Contributor)
2 months ago

Great article, Jonathan. Your list is the same as mine.

When I was on Planning Commission in Hood River, I commented that ebikes were growing so fast that at what point do they out number vehicles and our streets become bike highways, with cars as the guests? My fellow commissioners laughed, but it’s almost happening right before our eyes now in our small town.

Kip
Kip
1 month ago

E-bikes ridden by teenagers (13-18) are becoming a growing menace in SoCal. They ride these things without fear or regard to public safety. Riding on sidewalks, traveling on the wrong side of the roadway, ignoring the basic rules of the road like stop signs, red lights, lane change, and pedestrian yield just to name a few. I predict fatal accidents involving E-bikes will become the next “pandemic.”