eBikes Go Where Traditional Bikes, Cars Can’t

By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4)– Electronic assisted bicycles or “eBikes” are seeing a large increase in sales, according to retailers and they think Colorado will be a leader in making the product more common as local cities and counties still work out the right rules and regulations for the popular new trend.

“It gets a lot of people outside that otherwise might not think about it,” said Matt Bennett of Riese & Müller, one of the companies selling eBikes in Colorado.

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Bennett says common activities like traveling through the park, grabbing groceries, meeting friends for brunch, and commuting to work might require some people to walk, bike, or drive depending on the distance. But with an eBike someone could plan on doing all of the above without worrying about the distance of their destination.

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Batteries attached to the frame run the motor and controls on the handle give eBikes the power to increase the added acceleration a rider gets while they pedal. There are different models and classes of the product but “pedal assist” is often the type of eBike used on trails and to get around town.

“What that does is you start to pedal, it essentially amplifies your pedal stroke,” explained Bennett. “So right away when you start pedaling you feel the boost from the electric motors kick in.”

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Models can reach speeds of 20 to 28 mph and a fully charged battery set could travel 100 miles before running out of power.

Mary Ann Bonnell is the Visitor Services Manager for Jefferson County Open Space. The agency is researching the interest and knowledge of the public when it comes to eBikes at parks and trails. They noticed eBikes popping up in the area and wanted to investigate what policies might be needed in the county.

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“EBikes are getting people on bikes that haven’t been on bikes in 15 or 20 years,” she said.

Initial research collected by Bonnell and her colleagues shows two thirds of the public couldn’t detect an eBike when one was riding by them. The agency provided demonstrations of how a certain class of eBikes work and found most people changed their opinion about the product after learning more about it. The number of participants unsure if eBikes should be allowed on any or all trails dropped and overall got more people to support the idea.

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Those in favor grew from 53 percent to 69 percent on certain or all trails in Jefferson County. But staff have already heard concerns about eBikes before they even decide if there should be regulations.

“Trails are already crowded,” Bonnell said was one complaint from the public. “Are we going to have more people because of these bicycles?”

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The agency will ultimately have to decide if they can even create policies that would make a difference for eBikes and one aspect they’ll consider is if an eBike would damage their property above and beyond a regular bike.

“Is this new visitor group of eBike enthusiasts, are they going to create conflict?” Bonnell added. “Where it lowers acceptable levels of even cyclists in general?”

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Traditional bicyclists told the agency it was difficult enough to get their ride accepted by others on trails and in parks. They worry this new take on a bike will affect their reputation.

Issues for Jefferson County and other jurisdictions across Colorado to consider as more people buy eBikes. But some cities have already decided to embrace or restrict the product.

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Boulder allows eBikes on multi-use paths that include some trails in town and are often used by traditional bicycles. City staff say it’s popular for seniors and commuters that don’t want to deal with a car. But Denver has prohibited eBikes in all parks and trails. Parks and Recreation staff says they do not see too many in those areas and have not had to enforce the policy so far.

Rules may not matter for some that are not ready to make the investment needed for an eBike. Models can cost above $5,000 depending on the brand and features. But retailers say if you use one in place of your car on a regular basis, riders will make up the difference quickly.

“Everyone’s looking for different ways to get around,” said Bennett.

LINKS: Riese & Müller

Electronic Bicycle Mega Store

Shawn Chitnis reports for CBS4 News at 10 on weekends and CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the week. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

Comments

One Comment

  1. This is true. I live in Germany, where sales for e-bikes has really taken off. I’ve noticed that you see a lot of older couples out riding them on the weekend. Having an electric motor is sort of a safety net, allowing you to ride as hard as you want to and still be able to get home comfortably.

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