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Monday, December 20, 2010

Windsor Star's positive editorial on eBikes

The Windsor Star, one of the province's few newspapers taking a leading role in the discussion of eBike use in Ontario, has made some very sensible suggestions in a recent editorial about eBikes.

  1. eBikes don't belong on the sidewalk.
  2. eBikes do belong in bicycle lanes on the street.
The cases they make are simple: in the former, it's too risky having a speeding eBike in the same physical space as a puppy, baby stroller or inattentive pedestrian. In the latter, they state that since eBikes are "closer to a bike than a car," they should be in the bike lanes. 

Onteba salutes the newspaper for its continuing coverage of eBike issues, and for its sensible and reasoned approach that recognizes that eBikes are not going away but are, in fact, increasing in use.

The conclusion, although stating the obvious, needed to be said because hotheads in all camps often ignore the obvious: "That will make travel safer for everyone."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Windsor roads inhospitable for eBikes: local rider

Windsor drivers are rude, aggressive and dangerous to ebikers, according to the observations of a local rider published recently in the Windsor Star.

"They'll put you in a dangerous situation every chance they can get," Joe Dupuis told the newspaper recently.

The article recounts several close calls and serious accidents dealt with recently by Windsor police, who claim that accidents are on the rise because there are more bikes on the road and that eBike riders don't know and follow the law.

Another danger is police who seem ill-equipped to deal with the evolution of road travel in their city. Staff Sergeant Stephen Bodri, quoted in the paper, applauds an upcoming city move to disallow eBikes from the sidewalks but feels eBikes, although they are limited to the same speeds as a pedal bicycle, should be licensed because they are comparable to motorcycles and mopeds.

Onteba feels that police officers should enforce the traffic laws we already have, such as failure to yield right-of-way, failure to pass other vehicles safely, failure to obey speed limits, failure to stop before turning right on red lights, etc.,  and not worry about introducing more laws that they will fail to enforce.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Malaysia latest country to welcome eBike scooters

The southeast Asian country of Malaysia is set to welcome eBike scooters to its roads, according to that country's largest English-language newspaper The Star.

The country has not amended its roadways legislation since 1987, so previously there was no room in the law for  electric-powered scooters and bicycles.

The main points of the country's concerns are safety: eBikes will have to conform to many of the existing gas-scooter  regulations about headlights, brake efficiency and brakelights.

Road transport Director-General Datuk Solah Mat Hassan also said eBike speed is a consideration. "While such motorcycles are not expected to be occupying the fast lane, it cannot be too slow either as that could obstruct traffic flow and endanger the rider,” The Star reported.

Malaysia's parliament is looking at eBike legislation in December, 2010 for passage shortly thereafter.

Ontario conducted a three-year study into eBikes, before incorporating them into the Highway Traffic Act in October, 2009.

'Charge it Daily' is #1 rider tip from longtime eBiker

From blog "Eco Friendly Motorbikes"
You can't overcharge your batteries, claims eBiker Dave in 12 commandments for best eBike enjoyment published in the blog Eco Friendly Motorbikes.

Strictly speaking that's not true, you can overcharge lead-acid batteries if your charger does not have a good battery-management (shutoff and trickle) circuit. Especially in warm temperatures - such as inside the house or in direct summer sun - the batteries can "cook"... their electrolyte will boil and expand, creating a bulge in the battery, giving reduced efficiency and potentially even bursting open and in extremely rare cases, exploding.

But there's no denying that to preserve battery life and efficiency, riders with lead-acid batteries should charge them as often as possible, daily or after their rides.

Other of Dave's helpful tips include:

  • ...draining the batteries to zero reduces battery life.
  • Obtain same canned “fix a flat” carry it with you in case of a flat tire.
  • Always use the CENTER stand when the side stand is not as safe.
It's good to see more and more eBikers putting out positive messages and co-operative information as the community builds around the world for these sensible, efficient and enjoyable 21st-century vehicles.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    London, Ont. targets illegal gas-engine bikes

    According to the National Post, police in London, Ont., are "cracking down" on people who add gas engines to pedal bicycles.

    The only kind of motorized bicycle that is legal in Ontario is electric -- an eBike.

    Even so, there's a grey-ish area of law surrounding the retro-fitting of electric motors to pedal bicycles, turning them into pedal-assist bikes or "pedelecs."

    Provincial statutes suggest that only manufactured eBikes are permitted, and home-built DIY versions are not.

    Saturday, August 21, 2010

    Collingwood councillors ban eBikes, ignore mayor and city staff proposal

    Collingwood council has banned eBikes from municipal bike paths, according to the Enterprise-Bulletin. The vote is contrary to the planning recommendations of the mayor, three council members and members of the municipal staff.

    The newspaper reports that Mayor Chris Carrier and councillors Tim McNabb, Ian Chadwick and Dave Labelle, plus the community's Trail Committee, supported the use of all varieties of eBikes on bike paths and trails if the speed limit was kept to 20 km/h.

    The council voted instead to take its advice from the Leisure Services Committee and the the Georgian Trail board of management, which both recommended blocking eBikes from trails.

    No mention of imposing a speed limit on pedal bicycles.

    Collingwood municipal council will be facing a general election in October, 2010.

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Confused Ottawa cop terrorizes eBiker

    An Ottawa city police officer, unfamiliar with the city's laws and policies about eBikes on public pathways, reportedly swerved his cruiser off the road, sped across a lawn and blocked an eBiker from riding down an approved city path.

    According to the Ottawa Citizen, after the spectacular and shocking driving display, the officer warned her that eBikes were not welcome on bicycle routes.

    "I felt like a criminal," said the eBiker, adding that there appears to be a serious disconnect between this officer and the laws this officer was supposed to be enforcing.

    After the bizarre incident, Ottawa city spokesman Barre Campbell told the paper that “the city has no objection to allowing the use of an electrically assisted bicycle in a park or one of its bike paths.”

    Police spokesman Sgt. Al Ferris said that the eBiker should not have been stopped, but dismissed the incident as simply a case that, given that eBikes have only been legal to use in Ontario for three years, officers were not familiar with rules governing the new mode of transportation.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Stupidist eBike opinion ever?

    The Windsor Star recently published a letter from reader Jack Entwhistle that is so poorly researched and speculative, without a simple check of the facts, that the usually-reputable newspaper should be embarrassed to have published it.

    The ridiculously opinionated comments, based on pretty much everything except logic and facts, are almost laughable.

    The writer poses a series of questions, such as: "what happens when a collision occurs and the e-biker is at fault? Who pays the damages?"

    Our answer: If the e-biker "is at fault," the e-biker would pay the damages. That's been a clear legal principle for something like -- oh -- 3,000 years.

    The writer continues with: "Are e-bikers required by law to wear safety helmets and are there any age restrictions for these vehicles, or can any young person use them if they so desire? All these questions need to be addressed by the authorities as soon as possible."

    Our answer: Well, Jack, those questions were answered about three years ago by the provincial government during its eBike trial period and put into law in October, 2009.  Is three years ago soon enough for you, Jack?

    Thanks for writing. Windsor Star, boo to you for not actually caring that you made one of your readers look like a fool.


    On Labour Day, a publishing date when few people read the paper or internet, the Windsor Star published a factual rebuttal from another reader.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Electric bike an environmental carbon 'game changer': report

    Luyuan, the Chinese eBike manufacturing giant, was recently cited in research as a cultural, environmental and economic "game changer" for China's carbon-emissions programmes.

    Two models of the company's low-priced Gio brand of eScooter are sold in Canada.

    The report lists seven carbon-emissions game changers that it says " have each developed a low-carbon innovation that has the potential to make a significant contribution to emissions reductions and the move to a low-carbon society. In five years time, five of these innovations could together be saving up to 66 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year."

    The other two game-changers, it says, "could have total savings of 270 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year... These are equivalent to the greenhouse-gas emissions of 25 million and 100 million Chinese homes respectively, or 4% and 16% of total Chinese emissions in 2006."

    Carbon changers

    The seven companies listed in the report,  commissioned by the United Kingdom's National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts:
    • Global Environment Institute (GEI) is a Chinese NGO that has set up a full low-carbon agriculture system for poor farmers in the south-western province of Yunnan.
    • Himin is one of China’s largest producers of solar-thermal water tanks, a market that is in turn dominated globally by Chinese companies.
    • Hangzhou ISAW Technology Corporation (ISAW) has a range of products that build on chief executive Yuan Yijun’s scientific expertise to exploit “psychrometric” principles, regarding the different physical and thermodynamic properties of vapour mixtures, to provide low-cost, relatively low-tech and low-carbon alternatives to a range of processes that are usually extremely energy intensive, such as air-conditioning and solar desalination of salt water.
    • L├╝yuan is a major manufacturer of electric bicycles and was the first Chinese company to develop an e-bike. 
    • Pearl Hydrogen is also targeting the e-bike sector, amongst its various products, but using its innovative, but low-cost and simplified, fuel-cell technology.
    • Shengchang Bioenergy is making high-quality pellets from agricultural residues that would otherwise simply be burned in the field, as well as the stoves and boilers to maximise the efficiency of combustion. 
    • ZNHK (Beijing Sinen En-Tech) offers a water purification system that allows the high temperature recycling of water in industrial processes.


    The report concludes with four observations on how the carbon-emission benefits from these game changers can be maximized:
    1. New policy options could create more opportunities for innovation and growth in these areas.
    2. Policymakers need to enable, rather than to restrict or control the sectors.
    3. Encouraging widespread participation could improve governance.
    4. Promote partnerships with smaller innovative business, research organizations and small-to-medium-sized local and international business, rather than government-to-government or via large multinational corporations.
    Not just carbon

    As increasing numbers of eBikes switch from lead-acid batteries to lithium-based cells, the value of lead futures and lead mining stock is falling like --- er, lead.

    According to the International Lead and Zinc Study Group’s (ILZSG) findings as reported in a Reuters article, the price of lead is "set for further declines."

    Lead pollution from unrecycled batteries has often been cited as a negative factor for promoting eBikes as an environmentally beneficial transportation.

    Many jurisdictions, however, have introduced easier recycling methods and more facilities to deconstruct the batteries to minimize environmental leakage. 

    eBikes 'a unique experience': Kawartha journalist

    Reporter Joel Wiebe takes an e-bike down George 
    Street in Peterborugh.  Photo: Lance Anderson
    Central Ontario writer Joel Wiebe recently took to the roads in Peterborough to, as the MyKawartha article puts it, "check out the fuss" about the new cycles.

    Wiebe, who does have experience on licensed motorcycles, initially scoffed at the low-speed, under-powered eScooter "wannabees," especially after learning that his photographer colleague had just spotted a senior citizen riding one.

    However, after a brief acculturation period riding downtown, he relaxed and enjoyed the eBike for what it is, rather than what it is not.

    "Extreme it isn't," he wrote in MyKawartha, "it's not a motorcycle (though it does have a motor), a bicycle or a moped... it's a unique experience."  He continued, "it's for peaceful cruising."

    Tries Electric Assist

    Wiebe's second ride was on an electric-assist pedal bicycle, sometimes called a "pedelec," with a traditional open frame and "less storage", as local sales agent Vern Windrem observed.

    The second ride challenged his long-disused bicycling skills. "I'm a lazy cyclist when I do ride. I find no shame in walking a bicycle up a hill," he commented. The pedelec motor engaged, "I had no trouble climbing to the top without breaking a sweat."

    Wiebe's one regret is that of many commuters: "I remain envious of those who live near enough to their workplace to commute on an e-bike. My 38-kilometre drive is a little too far."

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Celebrity eBiker uses it for work

    Mercedes Formula One driver Michael Schumacher 
    of Germany rides his e-bike as he inspects the race track
    of Hockenheim in advance of the 2010 German Grand Prix.
    Image Credit: Reuters
    Formula One driver Michael Schumacher was recently pictured using his eBike for a pre-race track inspection.

    Schumacher, pictured by Reuters in this Gulf News article, brings his bike with him to all his races. He and his crew use them as the most efficient commute vehicle on the site. 

    eBike Hill Challenge: Pedal-Assist versus Old-School

    The U.S. Electric Light Vehicle Association (LEVA) has issued a competitive challenge for September, 2010 in Las Vegas: let's race uphill.

    The race will be held in late September, in conjunction with an international trade expo.

    According to LEVA, "the course for the LEVA Hill Climb Challenge takes racers up a nearly six per cent grade," followed by a 700 metre climb.  The Association says the race provides a fun "opportunity to test the electric power of pedal-assist bikes against the power of cyclists on regular bikes."

    More info on the race, suppliers or being part of it.

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    'Rules Clear' on eBike use say Hamilton Police

    (Photo of Spectator reporter Jeremy Grimaldi
     by Gary Yokoyama, 
    The Hamilton Spectator.)
    The rules of the road, the legalities of riding an eBike are "clear and adults and teenagers should know those rules or they could be surprised by a very big bill," Hamilton police spokesman Claus Wagner told the Hamilton Spectator  in a recent article.

    Constable Wagner went on to remind readers that "once that bike exceeds 32 km/h it will be treated as a road vehicle that needs both a licence and insurance."

    Obvious legal infractions include (in Hamilton): riding on sidewalks and riding the wrong way on a one-way street, something pedal bicyclists have been getting away with for years. However, eBikes are more conspicuous and their attractive colours may garner the attention of police officers where a pedal bicycle wouldn't.

    The Spectator also advises Hamiltonians of a "crackdown" on eBikers, although it has remained mum on the issue of pedal bicycle infractions and safety.

    Weak writing, poor logic

    A recent, poorly-researched online editorial that doesn't allow reader feedback, written by Lee Prokaska, posed the rhetorical question "who, if anyone, is liable..." when an eBike is involved in a collision or damaging accident?  The author needs to spend more time with Spectator colleagues who cover the courts, who could have deflated half of the article by informing Lee that the courts decide who is liable, and the liable person pays the damages.

    Also, depending on the particular insurance company or policy, many licensed drivers are insured no matter what vehicle they are driving.

    That's how it works in Canada. The rules are clear and it says so right in the same newspaper as the weak editorial.

    Modifications catch eye of St. Catharines police

    Oddball, and not so oddball, alterations to two-wheeled vehicles have caught the eye of St. Catharines police.

    According to the St. Catharines Standard, police have cracked down on people adding gas engines and electric motors to conventional bicycles, and on eBike riders who have removed their pedals.

    Both of these kinds of modifications change the vehicle's legal status, upgrading it to a "low-speed motorcycle (LSM)" in Ontario. LSMs require license plating and collision insurance.

    Ontario's position

    Although many jurisdictions allow eBikers to remove the pedals on eBikes, Ontario does not.  The Ontario government FAQs about eBikes outlines the rules for eBikes in the province.

    Onteba welcomes enforcement of all the cycling laws of Ontario, as long as officers are not on an eBike-only blitz and will promise to serve and protect us all from every kind of lawbreaking cyclist including the hundreds of pedal cyclists who break traffic laws every day.

    The more people on the road who obey the traffic laws, the safer all two and three-wheeled riders will be.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    Belleville hotels rent sightseeing eBikes

    According to a local TV report, three hotels in Belleville, Ont., are renting eBikes to guests so that they can get around the community and do more sightseeing. Belleville's waterfront features bike paths and trails popular with tourists.

    According to hotel manager Ron Anderson at the Holiday Inn Express, patrons can rent one of his eBikes by the hour or day.

    The bikes are styled as "pedelecs," a conventional-looking pedal-powered bicycle with a small drive motor fitted to the hub of the rear wheel.

    "This initiative promotes Belleville and Quinte's bike trails with a bike that can be used by any skill level," Ryan Williams of Williams Hotels and tourism chairman for the Belleville & District Chamber of Commerce said in the Belleville Intelligencer.

    Friday, July 2, 2010

    Windsor sushi delivered by eBike

    A Windsor, Ont. sushi house has started using an eBike to deliver sushi.

    According to the Windsor Star,  the Oishii Rock 'n' Roll Sushi Bar now rolls out its products on a specially-designed eBike built for cargo.

    Co-owner Mat Mathias says his Thrust Eco-Delivery Electric Bike, made in California, is the first of its kind in Canada. He had it specially delivered to Windsor in time for Bike Month.

    He says that the delivery eBike has twice as much torque and Lithium battery power as a standard recreational eBike, and can make deliveries where automobile traffic or other barriers would block a car or van. Also, he says, it can park easier.

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Shimano moves into eBike market

    Traditional bicycle accessory and parts maker Shimano has introduced an eBike like of products.

    According to Bicycle Retailer, Shimano's components are marketed as STEPS—short for Shimano Total Electric Power System.

    The system includes a 250-watt motor to drive the front wheel, with a maximum speed of 25 km/h, the European maximum speed allowed for power-assisted bikes.

    "It can be combined with several shifting options, including Shimano’s 8-speed internally geared hub with electronic shift buttons, and options for V brakes and roller brakes are available. STEPS can also be combined with Nexus internal geared V-brake and roller brake hubs and with existing rear derailleur systems," says the industry magazine.

    WIRED magazine reports that the system will be powered by lightweight Lithium-Ion batteries.

    The Shimano eBike product line will be officially introduced at the European bicycle show in Germany in September, and is scheduled to be on sale in time for Christmas.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Motorized pedals may be next eBike trend

    Riders of power-assisted bicycles may soon have an option to installing a drive motor on the front or rear wheel. Motorized pedals are here.

    British inventor Stephen Britt has come up with a way to put the battery, and the motor, into the pedals.

    According to Bicycle Design, Britt's electric bike pedals are one of the front-runners in a Barclay's innovation competition in the UK.

    • Watch video of inventor Britt making a business case for his design.

    The innovative idea uses minaturized motors and lightweight rechargeable Lithium batteries embedded into the footrest of each pedal.

    "As you pedal the sensors detect your effort and provide assistance," Britt explains in his initial sales pitch to the competition, "To pedal without assistance, simply flip the pedals over. They unclip and slot into a charger for charging, much like with a power tool."

    EBiker on Trans-Canada trek

    Ontario eBiker Art Burns, from Dundas, Ont. is on a cross-Canada eBike ride in what some call the longest commute ever.

    Burns is riding a modified Veloteq Challenger bike, known for their durability and reliability.  He left Dundas May 31 and hopes to be in western British Columbia  for Canada Day.

    Pictured here in Thunder Bay on June 9, Burns told writer James Murray  “I drive about two to three hours, until the battery gets low. Then I either charge it with the generator or if there is a plug-in, I can charge it there.”

    Sarnia police in pedal crackdown

    According to CBC News, Sarnia police are on the lookout for ebikers who don't keep their pedals attached.

    Ontario law states that in order for an ebike to keep its classification in the same category as bicycles, it must have pedals attached at all times. (Oddly, the same rule does not apply to mechanical bicycles, which are legal to ride and 'coast' with no pedals.)

    Police in the border city are also seeing non-pedal equipped ebikes come across the border from Michigan, where they don't have to have pedals. Michigan ebike drivers must wear a helmet, have a driver's license and pay $7.50 for a "moped" license, and $15 for a three-year license sticker. Recently the Michigan government amended the interpretationof their moped law, which describes only gas-powered bikes, to include electric ebikes.

    Sarnia police also warned against illegal modifications that would enable ebikes go faster than the legal limit of 32 km/h.