Monday, February 1, 2010

Future of electric bikes

A Sunday NY Times article, An Electric Boost for Bicyclists, is an overview of the growth of electric bikes, not only in China as we've noted previously, but in Europe and the U.S. Trek has even started producing an electric-assist bike, the Ride+. What role will electric bikes play in the future of Fairfax?

For those of us who use bicycles for transportation on a daily basis, electric bikes don't seem necessary. They require many more resources than a conventional bicycle. Batteries contain various toxic materials and must be recycled properly after use. Electricity needed for recharging is usually derived from fossil fuels. With their higher speeds, there will be inevitable conflicts with bicyclists riding conventional bikes. Should electric bikes even be allowed in bike lanes or shared use paths?

Despite the many negatives, there is a role for electric bicycles, especially in a place like Tysons Corner. Tysons and the surrounding area is not flat, and that terrain will limit the number of people willing to get around by bike. Electric bikes could get many more people out of their cars, most of which contain a single person driving to work. Parking would require much less space as well.

It's easy to envision people living in the surrounding neighborhoods of Pimmit Hills, McLean, Vienna and beyond having the option of hopping on an electric bike for the short trip into Tysons. As much as some of us dislike the notion, it's time to start thinking about the role of electric bikes in the future as their popularity grows.

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