Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Electric-powered bikes - are they really bikes?

I continue to have reservations about the gradual but steady increase in the number of people coasting around on electric-powered bikes.  Particularly, based on observation, I'm not convinced that they will ever mesh nicely with human-powered transportation.

It's always dangerous to stereotype, but (here goes...) riders of electric bikes seem to be generally inexperienced - it may be the first "bike" they've ridden in 20 or 30 or 40 years!  Their bicycling skills are rusty... they have grown unfamiliar with the bicycle rules of the road and common courtesy.  They tend to move at a considerably faster pace than their counterparts who are supplying their own forward propulsion.  (That's understandable, since e-bikes seem to zoom right along with the slightest rotation of the pedals or push of a handlebar-mounted lever.  And - I've never ridden one and don't intend to - but that's how it seems.)  Fast speeds and rusty skills tend to be a dangerous combination.

Many - perhaps most - seem uncomfortable riding anywhere but on corridors that have traditionally been reserved for "no motor vehicles" - and many are still posted as such.

Earlier this week, I was riding on the Greenbelt.  Traveling at what I consider to be a fairly brisk pace for the Greenbelt - 13 to 15mph.  Traffic was almost non-existent.  (Most people put away their white pants and bicycles after Labor Day - haha!)  A seasoned couple came crusing up behind me on their e-bikes.  I observed in my rearview helmet mirror that they were barely pedaling, but overtook me with ease.  A lady followed by a man.  They didn't try passing, but were riding close enough behind me to catch a little slipstream - ha!  We reached a point where the pathway was closed, and a sign directed traffic across the (Veterans Parkway) bridge, to the other side of the river.  A block up the pathway on that side - it was closed (!!) and a sign directed traffic onto city streets (which were covered with gravel for a chip-seal - is there ANY road or path that's not being repaired right now??).  I was somewhat amused when I left the path for the streets... and left the e-bike couple in the distance.  They were obviously unwilling to venture out on city streets.

At least they had the common sense to not attempt a pass, unlike some e-bicyclists who keep the pedal to the metal regardless of limited sight distance, heavy multi-mode traffic, etc.  (They are the pickup truck drivers of the bike path!  haha)

Finally... I can't imagine there would be much emotional reward to riding an e-bike.  A large part of my incentive in bicycling comes from ability to do so, and the sense of independence.  It's very satisfying to arrive at destinations powered completely by myself; it's something that most people are not able or willing to do, and frankly I feel like I rise above the masses, at least in my transportation choice.  Would you feel any such satisfaction if it's just a different form of motorized transportation?  (As a regular motorcyclist, I speak from experience.  I don't derive that same emotional reward from going someplace on the motorcycle.)

HOWEVER... for those few e-bike riders who would otherwise be driving someplace in a single-occupant motor coach, I s'pose I can get behind that.