Monday, February 1, 2010

Future of electric bikes

A Sunday NY Times article, An Electric Boost for Bicyclists, is an overview of the growth of electric bikes, not only in China as we've noted previously, but in Europe and the U.S. Trek has even started producing an electric-assist bike, the Ride+. What role will electric bikes play in the future of Fairfax?

For those of us who use bicycles for transportation on a daily basis, electric bikes don't seem necessary. They require many more resources than a conventional bicycle. Batteries contain various toxic materials and must be recycled properly after use. Electricity needed for recharging is usually derived from fossil fuels. With their higher speeds, there will be inevitable conflicts with bicyclists riding conventional bikes. Should electric bikes even be allowed in bike lanes or shared use paths?

Despite the many negatives, there is a role for electric bicycles, especially in a place like Tysons Corner. Tysons and the surrounding area is not flat, and that terrain will limit the number of people willing to get around by bike. Electric bikes could get many more people out of their cars, most of which contain a single person driving to work. Parking would require much less space as well.

It's easy to envision people living in the surrounding neighborhoods of Pimmit Hills, McLean, Vienna and beyond having the option of hopping on an electric bike for the short trip into Tysons. As much as some of us dislike the notion, it's time to start thinking about the role of electric bikes in the future as their popularity grows.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

E-bikes in China

It's sad that bicycling has fallen so far in China. When I was there in the late 80's, the peak of bicycle sales in China, bicycles were everywhere. Large bike lanes dominated most streets in Beijing and there were very few cars. Now the reverse is true.

While the use of conventional bicycles in China is decreasing, electric bikes have been taking off for the past couple of years. According to "E-bikes keep China's bicycle culture alive" in today's Post, 20 million electric bikes (e-bikes) will be sold in China this year. China is still the leading producer of bicycles in the world, producing approximately 60 million a year, many of which are exported.

The realities of too many people driving too many cars is starting to sink in:
"My family bought our first car in the 1990s, but we sold our car last year," said Bai Liping, 45, a saleswoman in an insurance company and an e-bike rider. "Having a car is not that convenient, compared with an e-bike."
They are also learning about the other problems associated with the switch from active transportation to cars:
There may be one unintended side effect of the explosion of e-bikes and fewer people going to work through pedal power: According to the Health Ministry, 22 percent of Chinese adults are overweight and 7.1 percent are obese. In the cities, those numbers rise to 30 percent overweight and 12 percent obese. The statistics mark a dramatic rise from the 1990s, the ministry said.

"People are lazier than before," said Jin Shan, director of the sports culture research center at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences. "Before, no matter how far it was, the bike was your only choice. Changing from bikes to cars and e-vehicles is one reason Chinese people are getting fatter."

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