Biking has been growing as a means of travel across the world as a result of increased desire for leisure activities and government programs to decrease trips made by car. Global Newswire reported in January 2020 that the fastest growing region for the bicycle market is the Asian-Pacific market including China, Japan, Australia, India and South Korea as the top contributing countries. Here in the US, an Arizona based company, Letric bikes reported a 140% increase in sales since March 15th.
E-Bikes provide a substantial environmental benefit over cars, reducing traffic and pollution. Lithium and lead batteries are the two most common battery types for E-bikes – with lithium increasing the cost and power of the battery. China leads the market in e-bike use and a vast majority of e-bikes in the United States come from China.
An insurance brokerage based in Europe did a survey of 3,000 E-bike riders who they insure and found that riders of electric bikes count for 38% fewer claims compared to pedal bikes. While these machines may be safer, the political environment and infrastructure contribute to users ability to safely ride them.
An delivery worker rides in the rain in New York City.
Here in the United States, cities are not adequately equipped to deal with the e-bikes as of yet. New York City had previously banned e-bikes which opened operators to tickets. Governor Cuomo, who supported the ban, has since temporarily lifted the rules to support restaurants who had to cease indoor dining and the nearly 40,000 food delivery workers in the City.
Across the river in New Jersey, food delivery workers navigate dangerous roads that are not designed for their machines. In September of this year, a food delivery worker was struck by a car while traveling on a major highway connecting Newark and Jersey City, two of New Jersey’s largest cities.
The United States is expected to follow other world markets in the e-bicycle trend. Planners can help by being aware of the prevalence of e-bikes and their use in leisure and work. Government leaders can create guidelines and safety programs for riders and drivers to increase awareness and reduce collisions. Cities should be looking to protect bike infrastructure to provide the safest route for cyclists and e-bike riders. The effort to make cities safer for e-bike riders will help reduce the number of cars on the road and help essential workers as well as leisure riders.
Protected bike lanes in Jersey City, New Jersey
Amanda Luchun is a planner in Union County, New Jersey. She is a graduate of Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University with a Masters in City and Regional Planning. Her interests include land use planning, environmental planning and community development.