Electric Bicycle Global Issues

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Previously, students have written about electric bicycles in China and elsewhere: [1]

Electric bike safety and laws

Safety around the world is an ongoing concern with electric bike manufacturers and governments. As the number of electric bikes increases in a city in China, the amount of fatalities has risen as well. Electric bikes fall into a category that is too fast for bike lanes and too slow for regular traffic lanes. There are few cities with laws governing the use of electric bikes. China was one of the countries that attempted to make a law banning them from portions of the bike lanes, but because the bike manufacturers and owners make up roughly 10% of the population, the law was suspended for the time being. Although it is not stopping many riders from being on New York streets, New York does have a ban on electric bikes on streets. This is one of the minor setbacks in the [global industry]

Team Gold Diggers

Death rates from e-bikes increasing

China has seen a growing trend in death rates as the use of e-bikes has increased. The death toll rose from only 87 deaths in 2003 to 589 deaths in 2004 to 1037 deaths in 2005. The increase prompted many cities to ban the use of electronic bikes. Beijing banned the use of e-bikes in 2002 but lifted the ban in 2006. The deaths may be attribute to the fact that these bikes do not require a drivers license like motorcycles do. This means that an inexperienced, unfit driver can operate these bikes on major city streets. The increase in deaths has led some to call e-bikes a terror of the streets.

Transport deaths.jpg (Source: Wall Street Journal)


Born in China, Electric Bikes Gain a Toehold in the West

In 1990 there were only a few thousand electric bicycles being used in China. As of 2010 there was an estimated 120 million electric bicycles in use. This massive growth has helped increase business and sales in other parts of the world such as India, Europe, and the U.S.. Manufacturers around the globe are producing their own models in anticipation for this type of growth around the world. If the rest of the world were to have the same magnitude of growth it would create an issue with the transportation systems in cities around the globe.

With different sizes and types of bikes being produced every year, it is hard for global transportation planners to plan for electric bicycles. There is a global debate as to where electric bicycles should be allowed to ride. One side of the argument is that electric bicycles are bicycles and should only ride in bicycles lanes. The other side to that argument is that electric bicycles are a safety hazard to normal bikes due to the fact that some can reach up to thirty miles per hour making them more of a moped than a bicycle.

This debate adds yet another variable to worry about when planning transportation routes in cities. Planners must consider if they will have electric bikes ride in bike lanes, on the streets, or in an entirely different lane just for them. Currently there is no current standard as to where electric bicycles are permitted to ride,so each city determines its own rules. For example in December of 2010 a government agency in China introduced a ban of large electric bicycles riding in bike lanes. However, the bike ban put in place in China only lasted for two weeks due to a strong opposition to the ban. Other big cities such as Toronto and New York have also been considering banning electric bikes from bicycle lanes. This would bring about a big change in New York, where electric bicycles are not permitted to ride on the streets at all. Although electric bicyclist getting ban from bike lanes may be a good things due to a number of cyclists reporting getting verbally harassed by regular cyclists whenever they ride in the bike lanes.

Right now each city is making their own laws as to where electric bicyclists are allowed to ride. In the future cities may be constructed with bike lanes that are meant specifically for electric bicyclists or electric bikes may be forced to ride on the streets. Either way it will be confusing for electric bicyclist to remember where they are allowed to ride in the different cities unless there is a universal agreement as to where electric bicycles are allowed to ride.

A Electric Boost for Bicyclists

David Patzer

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