Are Electronic Bikes Threatening the Urban Landscape?
As urbanization continues to sprawl, so does the traffic congestion. What should normally be a 10 minute commute will turn into 30 minutes and gradually increase in time over the next few years. As a response to the traffic conditions, some individuals are opting for other transportation methods such as walking or more recently, e-bikes.
While e-bikes have been widely used in Asia Pacific and Europe for years, recently they've been gathering interest in North America and Western Europe. The usage appears to be correlating with the increase of congestion in the urban areas and attentiveness for environmental initiatives.
Similar to a traditional bike, E-bikes have become known for being environmentally friendly and sustainable. Most of the ebikes on the market use an affordable lithium ion battery that can typically last 800 full charge cycles, and take approximately two and a half to six hours to charge. The batteries longevity is dependent on the manufacturer of the battery, the battery capacity, and battery chemistry.
In addition to being more environmentally friendly than driving a car, e-bikes have become widely used because they appeal to a large audience. While commuters are the main audience, some of the other audiences that ebikes appeal to include:
- Older riders since they can adjust their riding pace to provide a consistent heart rate while riding.
- Tourists of a city since an e-bike allows for quicker crossing at intersections and can be just as easily stored as a traditional bike.
- City dwellers that live in a city with multiple hills that lead to excessive exertion.
Even though e-bikes are great assets for a large audience, city's have yet to appropriately accommodate them. Similar to the challenges that regular cyclists face, e-bike users face difficulties such as:
- Lanes that are occasionally too narrow or non-existent on some roads.
- Small lane sizes causing issues with passing another cyclist.
- Drivers underestimating the speed of an e-bike and causing accidents at intersections.
Although these aren't immediately fixable, we can anticipate seeing more favourable conditions for e-bikes in the future.
Changes that are currently happening to facilitate a future with e-bikes include streets prioritizing smaller vehicles, reducing car parking facilities, and increasing areas for bike-sharing programs.
This however, presents an additional challenge since in some cities such as Beijing, we've seen the implications of allowing for more bike-sharing programs. Instead of helping commuters get around the city, the mess of competition thwarts their chances of navigating the sidewalk.
Despite electronic e-bikes exponentially growing in the past few years, city's have yet to take drastic actions to accommodate them. Since we can expect the trend to continue, however, with it we can anticipate more improvements to bike lanes and ideally, safer routes.
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