It is clear that American’s have been slow to adopt e-bikes. Perhaps due to confusion over the wide variety of e-bikes on the market and what they are and what they are not. See Regulations of E-Bikes in North America sponsored by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC)
E-bike user and future users need to petition state legislatures and local governments now for permission to operate pedal-assisted bicycles legally on roadways and paths. We need to make it our job to help legislatures and local governments understand the difference between pedal-assisted and throttle-assisted bicycles. And to explain why pedal-assisted bicycle should be allowed on trails and in cycling events.
These changes will help to accommodate aging Americans who might otherwise not be able to continue to cycle and achieve the physical benefits similar to conventional bicycles despite the electric power assist.
To make matters worse, many non-race cycling events ban e-bikes as well. For example, one of my favorite events, the Sea Gull Century, bans e-bikes. They say, “For our event we do not allow motorized bikes/vehicles on the course for Sea Gull Century. This would cover anything from battery to gas powered scooters / bikes / motorcycles.”
Even though it’s questionable if e-bikes can be ban from a course on public roads, they do not offer an explanation for the ban. Clearly, it can’t be due to the speed of e-bikes since many participants riding traditional bicycle exceed the maximum speeds attainable on e-bikes.
More importantly, I think banning e-bikes from non-race cycling events is very short sited by the organizers. In many cases, the average age of participants is in their sixties. While many would continue participate in and support these events as they grow older, the bulk will not be able to if e-bikes aren’t allowed.
In addition to the scientific research, there are also real life examples of people reaping the cardiorespiratory benefits of e-biking. Perhaps, the most famous is Martha Steward, who at 77, rides e-bike. See Martha Stewart Claps Back at Critic Who Said She Was ‘Too Old’ to Ride a Bicycle.
So what’s not to like about e-bikes? The downside of e-bikes is that in most cases they can only be ridden on the road. Many safer cycling options like rail trails don’t allow e-bikes because they are motor vehicles.
While I understand the concern with the potential for e-bikes speeding on the trails, I think that e-bikes users are unlikely to speed on the trails, especially with senior citizens. Why? Because most serious cyclists, like myself, can easily exceed the post speed limits on a traditional bicycle but we don’t. We don’t speed is because it would be irresponsible and dangerous for ourselves and other multi-use tail users.
There really aren’t any valid reasons for multi-use trails such as Rail-to-trails to ban motor assisted e-bikes. Policies need to change to allow motor assisted e-bikes on trails accommodate aging Americans who might otherwise not be able to use the trails.
While an e-bike may keep me riding a bicyle in my old age, will it help maintain my fitness?
There is increasing evidence that e-bikes have the potential to improve cardiorespiratory fitness. For example, the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (IJBNPA) published the study Physical activity when riding an electric assisted bicycle that found that e-bikes rider spent most time at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity level.
In another study, Effect of E-Bike Versus Bike Commuting on Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Overweight Adults: A 4-Week Randomized Pilot Study published in Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that e-bikes may have the potential to improve cardiorespiratory fitness similar to conventional bicycles despite the available power assist.
Finally, a study Pedelecs as a physically active transportation mode. published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers found that e-bikes can improve some cardio metabolic risk factors within only 4 weeks. So it looks like e-bikes can help maintain fitness.
I admit that I’ve never been an advocate of electric bikes (e-bikes). When I cycled coast to coast across America, I was determined to pedal every inch under my own power. I viewed e-bike riders as slackers and lazy. However, I’ve had a change of heart about e-bikes. So, what changed my mind? Old age!
As a young man, I start cycling for exercise. I felt that cycling was a good sport for me because I could continue cycling into my old age, and I have. I cycle across America in my mid sixties and I am still riding strong and doing centuries (100 miles) rides as I rapidly approach my seventies. While I want to remain active and enjoy the outdoors, I know I can’t continue cycling like this forever.
As baby boomers like me age, cycling will become more difficult. E-bikes are the natural transition for us to stay active and enjoy our sport. I like the idea that when I need it, an e-bike will give me a battery-powered push. Yet, I still will be pedaling my bike to get it.