Do you actually care about e-bikes?

I think you should

If there’s been one take-away from this year’s Eurobike and Interbike it’s that e-bikes are happening.

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The bike industry has clearly decided that electrified bicycles are the next cash cow that needs milking, and brands are falling over themselves trying to stick motors and batteries in or on everything with two wheels.

Judging by the comments we get on BikeRadar, some of you don’t consider riding an e-bike to be cycling at all.

The bikes themselves are dismissed as “motorbikes” despite the fact that a) you do actually need to pedal on an e-bike and b) the law (in Great Britain at least) does not differentiate between a limited-to-25kph-e-bike and an un-powered bicycle.

It’s got a motor, but it’s not a motorbike, okay?
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media
There is also a tendency to portray riding an e-bike as a form of cheating, and while it’s clear that e-bikes could never be used in competition alongside regular machines (duh), I see no reason why they can’t coexist peacefully for recreational and utility purposes.

E-bikes around the world

While many European countries seem to have wholeheartedly embraced electrical assistance for its practical benefits, we in the UK and US are, as ever, lagging behind.

That’s largely a reflection of our generally woeful approach to cycling as a part of everyday life: our infrastructure sucks, our drivers are not properly educated on cyclists’ rights on the road, and cycling as a whole is consistently misrepresented in the media.

In the US, land access issues mean there’s considerable (and not wholly unjustified) opposition to e-MTBs, but that’s a very specific problem that needn’t stand in the way of their adoption for more utilitarian purposes.

Fundamentally, I can’t see e-bikes as anything but a good thing…

Why I think e-bikes matter

E-bikes sweep aside so many of the excuses people have for not riding bikes and they can also buy ageing or less able riders extra time on two wheels.

If they get more people riding we all benefit from the safety-in-numbers effect, and most importantly of all, I think, e-bikes have the potential to make our towns and cities far nicer places.

E-MTBs and fancy road bikes are cool, but it’s sensible commuters that really matter here
Russell Eich / Immediate Media

I’m not anti-car by any stretch — I love driving and I (gasp) actually do it for fun sometimes — but I’ll be the first to acknowledge that cars are a pretty terrible mode of transport in a crowded urban setting. They take up a lot of space, they’re noisy, and they have an awful effect on air quality.

Imagine if all those single-occupant cars in the city were replaced by people on e-bikes — where’s the downside?

I don’t believe e-bikes will ever replace the non-powered variety and I certainly don’t want them to, but I’m very glad they exist.

I think it’s high time we stopped worrying about whether e-bikes count as proper bicycles and embraced them for the very clear benefits they offer. 

Of course, it may be that you agree with me on all this, but you don’t actually want to read about them.

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So, do you care about e-bikes?