Why Are U.S. Policymakers Ignoring Electric Bikes?

The singular focus on EVs is making U.S. cities miss out on the opportunity to promote e-bikes as a more efficient and sustainable transportation mode.

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December 14, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Sunstar electric bikes displayed during the japanese festival in Geneva on the 7th october 2012

Clément Bucco-Lechat / Electric bicycles on display

Despite prominent calls to electrify cars and buses, U.S. policymakers have largely failed to encourage an even more sustainable, affordable, and effective electric transport mode: e-bikes. Lloyd Alter writes that, according to a survey from the United States Conference of Mayors, "55% [of mayors surveyed] believed 'all-electric vehicles' were the most promising technology from a list of 20 options presented to them," yet the survey results made no mention of electric bikes.

Meanwhile, cities are planning for new EV infrastructure such as charging stations, which critics argue will not mitigate traffic and congestion problems in crowded urban areas or provide better options for rural and suburban dwellers with less access to public transit. And while electric vehicles are expensive to own and maintain, even a small subsidy for electric bikes could put them within reach of most Americans. E-bikes also create less 'embodied carbon,' the greenhouse gases emitted during manufacturing, and put less stress on local power grids.\

According to Alter, "the almost single-minded focus on e-cars seems so misguided when a faster and fairer approach would be to try to reduce the number of cars and make space for the safe and secure use of bikes and e-bikes."

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