The Rise of the Electric Bike

In China, an estimated 120 million electric bicycles are on the streets. So why haven't they caught on in the U.S.? Reporter Alan Durning thinks its time.

The aging population is one reason Durning believes e-bikes will be a growing market in the near future. Improving technology is another:

Durning writes, "Luckily for e-bike makers, advanced battery research is in its heyday, thanks to billions of dollars of investment from public and private institutions around the world. The hunt is on for better batteries not only because they're essential to electrifying transportation and getting the world off of oil but also because they're needed to harness intermittent, renewable power sources such as the sun and the wind. As battery improvements emerge, electric bikes stand to gain quickly."

Full Story: The Parable of the Electric Bike



Legal barriers

In NY state, at least, the vehicle and traffic law will need to be amended to allow electric bikes. Currently, Anything that does not qualify as a Limited-use Motorcycle (moped) is illegal to use on any road open to the public:

"Motor-assisted Bicycle - a bicycle to which a small motor is attached. A motor-assisted bicycle does not qualify for a registration as a motorcycle, moped or ATV and does not have the same equipment.
These devices are not allowed on any street, highway, parking lot, sidewalk or other area that allows public motor vehicle traffic. You are subject to arrest if you operate one of these motorized vehicles and do not have a registration, driver license, inspection, insurance or correct equipment."

To be permitted, it would have to be registered, operated and, if it has a top speed >20 mph, insured as a limited-use motorcycle.

It's a pity, since these wouold have great utility in areas like Ithaca and Troy, which have large student populations and steep hills.

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