e-bike - Google News

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cities should embrace eBikes, says academic study

American and Chinese research into the issues around integrating eBikes into urban communities has come to the conclusion that, all things considered, eBikes are good for cities.

"Cities should embrace electric bikes," concludes Christopher Cherry of the University of California Berkeley Center for Future Transport. The report says that, overall, both 'bicycle-style' and 'scooter-style' eBikes are good for cities, good for users, far safer and less polluting than cars and buses.

The study was made on behalf of two city governments in China that were leaning towards banning the eBikes from bike lanes... as it turned out because they didn't have all the facts and were reacting to anecdotal complaints from conventional bicyclists.

The main findings of the report, by relevant content area:


The study asserts that forcing eBikes to operate in motor vehicle lanes would be deliberately legislating people into physical danger. By compiling statistical data about bicycle and eBike accidents, the study found that a collison between ebike and motor vehicle "will almost certainly result in injury or death" of the electrc bicycle rider.

The report says that, because bicycles so vastly out number eBikes, about 3.5 times as many conventional bicycle riders were injured and 7 times more cyclists were killed than eBike riders in accidents. The overall fatality rates and injury rates are "very comparable," taking into account that there are far more bicycles on the road than eBikes. In almost all the accidents, cars were the cause. EBikes were not reported to be the cause of any of the road accidents.


A common criticism about eBikes is that, because of their smaller tires, they are less agile and therefore unsafe.

The report proves the exact opposite: "Electric bikes are easier than bicycles to control and maneuver in heavy traffic because of their low center of gravity, acceleration characteristics, and superior braking systems" the report found. Large (24-inch) bicycle tires raise the rider high off the ground, raising the centre of gravity and making them less stable and harder to control. Also, the wider eScooter tires are far less likely to become entangled in street railway (streetcar) tracks, making the eScooter safer on streets with inlaid tracks.

In a similar principle, that's why wheelchairs have the large wheels in the back and the small wheels in the front (unlike their 19th-century counterparts)... it is easier for the rider to control smaller wheels and steer better.


EBikes were shown to have a slightly higher average speed than bicycles in city traffic driving conditions: Bicycles clocked in at an average 11 km/h in city traffic (factoring in red lights, etc.) and eBikes at 14.5 km/h. The difference in speed between them is about the same difference as a pedestrian strolling versus walking fast.


Sealed Lead Acid batteries (SLA) used by cheaper eBikes, even at 100 per cent recycling, are a cause of some lead pollution.

However, this is already being vastly reduced by the advent into the marketplace of better alternatives such as LiFePo4 (Lithium-ion-Iron-Phosphorous) batteries, the price of which has fallen sharply in the past two years and will continue to do so as more manufacturers of these lighter and more efficient batteries come into production. (In Jan. 2007 a 48V-Li battery pack was $1000, in 2009 it is $680).

Lithium batteries have negligible pollution effects compared with lead acid.

The coal-fired generating plants required to provide electricity to recharge eBikes were also mentioned; the environmental effect is negligible in that the typical recharge in Ontario requires $0.07 cents worth of electricity (under $30 per year). This is less air pollution than what's produced by a couple of diesel trucks sent to refill a neighbourhood gas station.

Over the life cycle of a conventional bicycle, the pollution involved in its manufacture and retail distribution is virtually identical to the Nitrous Oxide and Sulfur pollution of a bus over its life cycle.

Pollution effects, the report concludes, are far outweighed by the positive impact eBikes have on cities.


An odd finding of the report is that eBikes may contribute to better productivity and have positive commercial effects, in that people using them can do errands and shop more efficiently.

"70% of all trips made by bicycle and electric bicycle" are of about 20 minutes duration, according to the report. The study showed that "e-bikes are 58% more efficient than bicycles" in performing tasks like running errands, commuting to jobs, etc. in rides of that duration.

In other words, eBike riders contribute to increased productivity by getting to work quicker, spend less time on the road and are in -- and contributing to -- traffic for less time than bicycles.


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Jay Sims said...

Great Article! I intially bought an ebike because I am awaiting a liscence reinstation. However, I have enjoyed the bike immensely. Driving at a slower speed you have more time to both ponder your surroundings (in my case, nature...I work at a lakeside business) and also ponder the utter ignorance of drivers. I've pondered my fate more than a few times as hurried delivery trucks blazed past me, merely inches away. So, I suppose ebike deaths will be inevitable...and I suppose it's a good take on humanity...people are more selfish than I ever gave them credit for...and so is our government, which is why infrastucture that will better accomodate alternative transportation methods is but a pipe dream. I hope in the long run that a more sharing of the road mentality will evolve...if humans evolve past their materialistic, impatient and selfish road rage ways. Sorry to sound so pessimistic...but having taken an ebike daily over a 20 km stretch each way to work and back, I'm convinced that man is but a gas guzzling and reckless nutbar. Ask me how gravel tastes.