Earlier this week BikeBiz.com ran an article by Wisper Bike’s David Miall of the British Electric Bicycle Association. He agrees with ETRA’s EU e-bike lobbying, and disagrees with the positions of the Bicycle Association, CTC, Sustrans, the European Cyclists’ Federation and European bicycle trade bodies Colibi and Coliped.
Ed Benjamin, chairman of the Light Electric Vehicle Association, an organisation based in America, has now responded to Miall’s article and his response is given in full below.
It is clear from reading David Miall’s statement, that he and BEBA have a far better understanding of the real issues of every day use that face electric bicycle rider, than BAGB.
Manual bicycles are rather special in that they are part of sport, fitness, culture, an–in the western world to a less extent–transportation. I suggest that the average riders of manual bicycles are often more skilled, and stronger than the average riders of electric bicycles. And younger as well.
One of the faults that I have found in the USA bicycle industry is that the decision makers, managers and staff at nearly all levels have a passion for the sport or fitness aspects of cycling. And that this makes it hard for the industry to understand that there are a lot more old, heavy, pregnant, injured, motion limited, or simply people with a different view of cycling – that there are ex bicycle racers, triathletes, and mountain bike enthusiasts. The assumption that all cyclists are strong and fit (or should be) simply does not apply to bicycles-as-transportation.
The assumptions that a fit, strong, skilled cyclist, who loves manual bikes, makes about the use of an electric bike are usually colored by capabilities and attitudes that are simply not shared by the users of electric bikes – and frankly, the fit, strong, cycling enthusiast is a minority, all over the world.
Electric bicycles are not sport or fitness…they are transportation. And they enable people who are not as fit, or strong, or who wish to arrive at their destination without need of a shower, or simply desire more comfort and utility from their vehicle. Electric bike riders are typically focused on getting to their destination. Like most of us on our way to work, they are in a bit of a hurry, and during their commute there is no time for anything except utility and safety issues. They have no interest in the culture and sport of cycling, nor should they be expected to have such interest, or share the view of manual / sport cyclists.
I note that Miall clearly articulated a point that may not be apparent to a non-electric bike user:
To reduce the utility of the electric bike by requiring the rider to pedal a few strokes before the power comes on seems intuitive to manual bicycle riders, but is not as safe or useful as a throttle in actual use – by the transport oriented rider.
I frequently ride my electric bike on errands, and I find every traffic light and stop sign is a bit worrisome. I had the same issue on my manual bike.
Accelerating into an intersection as the light changes, or one’s turn occurs, is a tense moment. For a few seconds, I am struggling to get up to speed, and I want to clear the intersection before the light changes.
My attention is on staying safe alongside an accelerating stream of traffic.
A pedal activated motor means a few seconds of struggling to get the bike moving, with attention on pushing down pedals while wobbling a bit at dead slow speeds. Not comfortable, less safe than we might wish, and unpleasant.
With a throttle controlled bike, I can pay attention to traffic, and accelerate with a combination of human and electric power that makes the intersection much less intimidating, clearing it more quickly, smoothly and without wobbling.
My compliments to BEBA for being aware of actual conditions, and articulating them well. Their understanding of the ebike consumer is exactly why organizations like BEBA, ETRA, and LEVA are needed.