Ebikes are Cheating?
GET OVER YOURSELF…OR, YOU *MAY* BE ONTO SOMETHING
We’re thumbing our noses at the biking purists who espouse that riding an ebike is cheating. In honor of May Bike Month, we are kickstarting the campaign, #ebikesarecheating, encouraging photo sharing of hauling kids, friends, stuff or themselves by electric bike as car replacement, you know, “cheating”. Why? Because no challenge, incentives or coercing friends will have quicker and stronger behavior change like the ebike for families, the target that we really need to seduce onto bikes.
You can’t expect big results without making fundamental changes.
We’re a bike business, and it’s Bike Month. Bikes are pretty much our Everything. And so, to properly honor Bike Month, we’re going to get real with you. We think there’s a dynamic within the Bike-O-Verse that deserves more discussion than it’s been getting, and so we’re going to blog about it. Our motivation is almost entirely subjective (personal observation), but it’s consistent enough that we’re going to roll with it anyway, hoping you hear us out. And then, we’re going to get up tomorrow and bike to work and school again, because that’s how we do.
Here’s what we think happens a lot:
Awesome bike-curious young adult says “nuts to this, traffic sucks,” starts biking instead of driving. Goodness ensues.
Awesome new bikey lifestyle leads young adult to meet like-minded, attractive other young adults. Love ensues.
Bikey young adults procreate / adopt / etc. Diaper changing ensues.
Bikey new parents decide that they can no longer bike everywhere, because now they have a kid, so they buy a car. Dusty bikes ensue.
We would never belittle the challenges of dealing with getting a small kid around by bike, much less multiple kids. We dealt with those issues with a colicky newborn in Boston, and we deal with them now with a borderline-Tween in an incredibly hilly small town in Oregon. But we have absolutely noticed that, in general, having a kid tends to derail too many otherwise happy bikey people, and we think a unique solution is available to new parents in this era that really wasn’t such an easy possibility before: Electric bikes.
There have been unpowered cargo bikes around for a decade or so, in most larger North American cities. What’s different in 2019 is the demonstrable maturation of the electric bike segment of the industry. Batteries are much better and cheaper than they were 5 years ago. Motors and controllers are as well. Manufacturers of these parts have scaled up, lowering costs. Major bike makers are on their 3rd or 4th versions of standard city e-bikes. Lessons have been learned, quality is going up, costs are going down. And e-bike sales are skyrocketing.
Bicycle Product Suppliers Association reported in January of 2019 that while overall wholesale bicycle sales declined in 2018, ebike sales experienced a 78% increase!
And in March 2019, Forbes reported in When Will E-Bike Sales Overtake Sales Of Bicycles? For The Netherlands, That's Now, “40% of all bicycle sales in The Netherlands last year were e-bikes. However, when you strip out of the total the 11% of all bicycle sales that account for childrens’ bikes then the majority of adult bikes sold were e-bikes.”
POLICY WONKS, WE NEED EBIKE SUBSIDIES.
Thanks to Germany and Europe (how many times do we say this), we have data proving that EV subsides, no matter how grand, are no match for the economics and value proposition of the ebike. “[Germany] spent €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) through 2014 on R&D and added an additional nearly €1 billion ($1.07 billion) subsidy scheme in 2016. Yet, there are just 25,500 pure EVs on the road in Germany. Meanwhile, e-bike sales exploded in the country during the same period with virtually no subsidies,” Navigant Research.
Legislators, are you listening? For a low income family, the idea of selling your car to buy an electric bike is scary and financially impossible. We need subsidies that would bring the cost of an ebike down to $500-$1000 for a low income family. If they buy the ebike, start feeling the bliss through well being, fresh air and more money in their bank account, and they consider going car-light or totally car-free, then our American communities and taxpayers all benefit from reduced congestion, healthcare bills and a more reliable workforce that’s not dependent on gas prices.
EBIKE USER RESEARCH
If you need policy recommendations, we recommend reaching out to John MacArthur, Research Associate at Portland State University’s Transportation Research and Education Center, author of the study, The Ebike Potential: How Ebikes Can Improve Sustainable Transportation. Megan saw his presentation, Mobility Transformations Via Ebiking, at the Washington Bike Summit, and thought the 2 slides below were particularly important:
#1 - Ebikes are fulfilling a major mobility need and enabling mode shift from single occupancy vehicles: National Electric Bike Owner Survey.
#2 - Nothing new to us, but he was most surprised that when asked “why ebike?” 40 respondents selected other and wrote in “fun”