Why the ebiker hate?

Nobody seems to like ebikers: not cyclists nor motor vehicle drivers and especially not pedestrians. Why is it that ebikers get all this hate? Is there a good reason to hate them? (Photo: Toronto Star)

Certainly there are jerks who ride ebikes. But that is not unique to ebikes. There are jerks who use any kind of wheels. So I don't think this is backed up in fact.

I hear from cyclists who hate ebikers. The reasons they give boil down to hating that they come up quickly and silently. And often in the bike lane. These are valid concerns. But these concerns are all wrapped up into a description of the kind of people who use ebikes. This concern seems to be shared by drivers. I heard a rural driver describe what he saw as a typical ebiker: fat, lazy, unhealthy, low income people. And because the people in this category are entirely "unsexy" it becomes all the easier to hate the mode of transportation and the choice.

The stereotype is accurate (except for lazy). In a recent survey by the City of travel behaviour, we can see that ebikers tend to be older, less healthy and have lower income. A stats nut, inkhorn82, crunched the survey data and spit out some interesting facts. The conclusion: ebikers tend to be older, less healthy and lower income than the average Toronto traveller.

So now we have an interesting picture emerging, with two parallel descriptions of who is most likely to ride E-bikes:

1) 50 – 64 year olds in not the greatest of health
and
2) Non University educated folks with lower than $80,000 income.

I hope that we can separate our concerns about ebikes and the stereotype of the riders. Who rides the ebikes - except for identifying individual jerks - is entirely irrelevant to the discussion as far as I'm concerned. Ironically, this stereotype had until recently been assigned to the lowly bicycle (at least in North America). With bicycles having attained elitist, latte-drinking status it seems the mantle has moved to the ebike.

When I look at ebikes themselves, I find it hard to believe that ebikes are as dangerous as some cyclists make them out to be. Like a bicycle they can be driven fast or slow (though only to a max of 32 km/hr). There are heavier ebikes, but then there are also heavier bicycles. Cargo bikes and bakfietsen, increasingly seen carting around children and groceries, are also heavy.

But more importantly, the people who argue that ebikes are dangerous back up their assertions with absolutely nothing, and compare this danger to nothing.

This outrage over ebikes seems to be another case of ignoring the elephant in the room. Motor vehicles are far more dangerous - they kill many more people than ebikes, weigh a lot more, can go a lot faster - and cyclists are forced to ride amongst these rumbling beasts constantly as if it was the most normal thing to ride in a herd of stampeding elephants.

The next time someone talks about something being "dangerous", if they fail to mention "relative to ...", you can safely ignore them. Everything we do has a risk and it is absolutely a waste of our time to consider "danger" in isolation. This is simply fear mongering. Instead a risk needs to be considered in the context of other risks (and also considered should be perceived versus actual risk). And in this case the risk of an ebike to cyclists pales in comparison to the risk of a motor vehicle.

Compared to the danger of motor vehicles I really don't have much time for this ebiker hate. And find it a waste of time to use this as a basis for transportation policy.

Comments

In Toronto, link, e-bikes are prohibited from using bike lanes and bike paths. Maybe we should get e-bike lanes and e-bike paths, along with special lanes and paths for roller blades, skateboards, electric wheelchairs, joggers, walkers, baby strollers, etc.. After all, there are like-users who don't like non-like-users using "their" lane or path.

Oh, I forgot about the segway? The Ontario pilot was extended, but will expire soon on October 19, 2013. Maybe they'll need a lane or path for them as well.

Everyone should get a special lane or path.

I see a lot of people on e-bikes who are well under 50, in apparent good health and/or probably on the higher end of the income bracket. It's not the e-bikes themselves or the sort of people who ride them - it's the broad attitudes of ignorance of the rules/road etiquette and outright disregard of other road users (not signalling, poorly executed turns, etc.).

If I, as a cyclist, clip another cyclist or a pedestrian, I am at best getting a bit of road rash and some nice bruises. Worst case, broken bones. If one of those monstrosities clips you with its mirror as it drunkenly weaves by, then the cyclist/pedestrian on the receiving end is going to feel it much worse than the e-biker. Worse, they act like cars and create space by intimidating other path users into giving way.

I don't care what kind of cargo bike you have, I can guarantee it weighs less than 100kg unloaded.

I am far (an order of magnitude) more likely to see one of those things go by with the driver holding a cell phone to his ear.

And don't make me laugh at the "32km/h speed limit" that every single defender trots out every time the subject comes up. That's complete garbage. I had one of these idiots weaving along behind me one evening; far too close for comfort, and there's no way he could have avoided plowing into me if I'd needed to emergency stop. I couldn't shake him at 36km/h, so I gave up and pulled off.

They are motor vehicles, and need to be treated as such. We don't let a Nissan Leaf (or any other EV) on the bike path just because it is electric, nor do we allow Vespas on the bike path just because they have 2 wheels.

The danger is that while I may commute around 15-20mph on a bike, with some descents going upwards of 30mph, I took time to get there. I had to learn the skills of bike handling and make sure I was comfortable with these speeds as I got stronger from more commuting.

An ebiker on the other hand, jumps on a bike they've never ridden before and instantly can be going 20mph with very little physical output of their own. They can skip entirely over the months of getting stronger, learning how to interact with traffic at those speeds, and learning how to plan ahead for crossing pedestrians.

I doubt very much a loaded cargo bike can achieve 32 mph.

Personally I feel they've been misclassified. If it can accelerate without having to peddle, than it's a scooter. It's an electric scooter, but a scooter none the less. The size/width of these electric scooters can be problematic, especially as whatever bike lanes we have are so narrow to begin with, add in stormsewer grates, potholes and yes, on a few occassions I have felt that a passing electric scooter is forcing me off the road. However, I have the same experience, many times more fequently, from the tour-de-france-wannabe MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra).

Herb emtnionned two categories of ebike riders. At a meeting a bicycle shop owner told me of a third. It is primarily men who have lost their drivers licence. He called them DUI's.

The problem is not ebikes, it is electric scooters with "pedals" which cannot be ridden as a bicycle. An ebike can be ridden like a bicycle. An electric scooter cannot be.

Electric scooters shouldn't be in bicycle lanes, separated and otherwise.

The easiest way to differentiate a scooter from an ebike is wheel size. If the wheel is less than 20" in diameter it cannot be ridden as a bicycle. Heavier ebikes are not ebikes. They are scooters and should require a motor vehicle license and insurance just like a gasoline powered Vespa.

I'll join the hating the e-bike crowd. Ultimately, they are neither fish nor fowl and find they act whatever way they like. I have yet to have one (or see one) actually ring a bell coming up behind someone. I have been seriously startled more than once. I actually wouldn't pigeon hole them however, as the ones I see (downtown to the east end (Scarborough) were pretty varied. I agree with Veronica that they are misclassified - if they have an engine they should be considered a vehicle - like a scooter. (incidentally, still giggling at the MAMILs... although to be fair, I'm a middle aged woman - but I DON'T wear lycra lOL).

But I think the point is that they are invading the VERY little space that cyclists have - yes, we have to ride amongst the rumbling beasts constantly; but before the proliferation of e-bikes (they have bred like bunnies), there was at least an illusion of holding a small bit of space at the side of the road - now even that is begrudged us!

I agree w. Herb - ebikers are vilified as a class beneath contempt, like "white trash". Cyclists are mad at the lack of adequate infra and turn on ebikers xenophobically.
Ebikes, it appears, are not going away and are not driven exclusively by ageing motorcyclists w. their licences suspended. All types own them. So we have to deal with two-wheeled diversity.
Like anything that annoys you, it is up to you to decide how annoyed you wish to be.

The term 'E-Bike' hasn't been applied consistently since they entered the market in 2006. The confusion between a scooter-style E-Bike (with ornamental pedals), and an electric assisted bicycle (pictured above) needs to be addressed before people pass judgement on either.

First and foremost, I do not have any concerns about electric assist bicycles. I enjoy riding my bike through the city daily, and I hope that when I'm old and aching, I will still be able to do so by adding an electric motor to the drive train.

There is obvious distain for E-Bikes, and I sympathize with other cyclists who feel less comfortable with something that looks like a fibreglass moulded scooter zipping past them; keep in mind that some travel at 45-50 kmh if you remove the governor/speed limiter.

That said, I do not feel there is any need for cyclists to force these E-Bikes into motor vehicle traffic. I suspect that some cyclists are applying the same marginalized attitude towards E-Bikes, that some drivers do toward cyclists.

We can all get along, and in fact we must if there is to be any degree of civility on our roads. Cyclists need to lead by example and avoid imposing a class system that says some are more entitled to our roadways than others.

Thank-you Herb. For a while now I've been trying hard to like e-bikers.

I reminded myself that the more two-wheeled commuters out there, the more political clout we will have to demand infrastructure. I reminded myself that as cyclists we should be more inclusive of those whose physical stature makes it difficult to use a traditional bicycle.

But you have set me at ease in vilifying them for what they really are... THEY'RE BUMS!!!!

Wow, I never realized how much irrational hate there was against electric bikes.

I do agree that the classification rules are very silly, and they should distinguish between the electric assist bicycles, and the electric scooters with pedals. Requiring scooters to have completely useless pedals sticking out the side only makes them more dangerous.

E-bikes of both varieties should absolutely be permitted on bicycle lanes and paths, since they provide a car-alternative to those who are not fit enough for cycling to be a completely effective mode of transportation, namely the elderly and the disabled.

With a larger proportion of the population able to benefit from bicycle infrastructure, politicians will be more likely to invest in it, and engineers will design it to a much higher standard.

People complain that e-bikes "invade our space", which is completely short-sighted. The presence of e-bikes helps INCREASE our space through the construction of new infrastructure, which is far outweighs the nuisance of being passed by someone once in a while.

Thanks for the reminder Seymore. I was indeed lumping the scooter style e-bikes with the electric assist bicycles. Just for the record, I don't hate e-bikes (the scooter type). They just annoy me. But then a lot of other road users annoy me as well. I think it's more a function of a lack of civility and education in just about all road users.

I confess that I don't like e-bikers because they do seem to be disproportionately "bikers" who are bad drivers and who make me feel unsafe or like I'm going to be witness to them being hit by a car.

I believe a lot of them are people who for a bunch of reasons cannot drive cars and e-bikes are as close as they can get.

However, I think the bigger issue is addressing space on the road for non-car vehicles. Our numbers are growing and we need room to bike and e-bike safely.

It's not going to get rid of any of the people who drive/bike dangerously and/or poorly, but we'll have a safer space to be in while those issues are addressed.

Herb,

My experience with e-bikes (or as you correctly argue, e-bikers) has actually helped me to sympathize with car drivers who whine about rule-breaking cyclists. The problem with e-bikes is that they are often driven in the reckless fashion that we sometimes witness from cyclists, but using a vehicle that has a far greater potential to cause harm. And cyclists have the biggest problem with this because they are the ones most liable to be harmed.

At least car drivers are licensed and regulated. This summer I narrowly avoided a major collision with an e-biker as I was going through a green light northbound on Sherbourne at Carlton. At full speed, this e-biker, who was going westbound on Carlton, flew through his red light and made a left turn onto Sherbourne. He came out of nowhere; he was totally silent. I was really rattled. It's impossible to imagine a car making a move like that, and if they did, you would hear it coming.

I also feel angry when e-bikes take the bike lane because these spaces were so hard fought for, and it feels as though the "motor" culture is encroaching on the few scraps that we have won. We all know that the chances of law enforcement protecting our bike lanes from e-bikes are, well, nil.

Like some commenters here, I try to like e-bikes. I remind myself that from an environmental and congestion perspective, e-bikes are much preferable to cars. But in the free-for-all taking place right now in the city, I am terrified of them.

Micki

If we cannot get along in a bike lane, how do we expect countries to get along in peace? Hate? Hate is a very strong word. Do bicycles really ring a bell when coming up behind you or is that an expectation only for ebikes? Maybe you should take a page from ebikes and invest ten bucks in a rear view mirror, all the scooter style have them, then you would know what is going on around you. The engine is very small, equal to what a fit cyclist can produce in power, so muscular power equal to electric power hardly qualifies the same as an automobile. Besides, do you maintain that power wheelchairs and disability scooters should be classed as motor vehicles, they have a motor?

The reason you have meagre space to ride is that the general public and politicians are loath to give up road space to what they perceive is a vocal self righteous exclusionary minority. How is that working out for you? Maybe if more people were actually using the bike lane, they would add their voice to yours and you might get more space, which might seem contradictory, but what you are doing is producing mediocre results.

How is that working out for you? Maybe if more people were actually using the bike lane...

@Allan, drop the condescending tone and horseshitting. Riding a bike sucks in cities where they allow scooters and motorcycles to use the bike lane. You always feel like you're in someone's crosshairs.

I have as many issues with cyclists in bike lanes as i do with ebikers in bike lanes, so I guess I'm neutral on the subject. The only real difference that I have noted is that the ebikes can maintain a high speed more consistently, but otherwise they are similar in that they are small and relatively quiet.

I do find it irritating though when an ebiker is driving on the right on a road with a 30-40 km/hr speed limit, if you can go traffic speed you shouldn't be on the right anyway.

Cheers,

Ian

http://cyclinggotham.blogspot.ca/

As Alan said, the more people using bike lanes, the better. The question is: will a few escooters in the present dissuade potential cyclists ("the 60%") from biking in the future? I want to intuitively say no: anyone who feels unsafe around escooters isn't going to feel safe when (s)he inevitably has to mix with cars, trucks, streetcars and semis at the beginning and end of even the best journeys. But I'd love to see some data and get some informed opinions.

As far as specific run-ins: if someone broke the law and endangered your life on the road, report it to the police. If TPS receives enough complaints, the police will start arresting unsafe escooterers; while there's no escooter license to revoke, I'm sure a judge could forbid a repeat offender from riding for a period of time. As usual, though, the solution to the root problem probably involves education and better public transit.

My car-driving mom, girlfriend, and many friends aren't interested in bike commuting, but they are interested in escooter commuting. I think escooters are an elegant technology, perfectly suited for urban transportation, and a great stepping-stone from car to no-car. The speed governor is enough for me to feel safe around them, but I'm not sure they should be on trails and in bike lanes. Ideally, I'd like to see them simply take over downtown streets the way gasoline scooters have in most East Asian cities, parking for free in Green P spaces, improving the flow of downtown traffic, and emitting zero toxins into the air all 2.8M+ of us have to breathe every day. The Motorino ones are especially tempting; they seem to be much higher quality than most others.

@Ben I am not sure how to reply to your outburst. You seem to be deliberately making my point about (not) getting along. Am I supposed to be afraid of you and stop posting? Do you expect me to post an equally moronic reply and start a flame war that nobody wants to read? Can you get along with pedestrians, runners, roller bladers, and other cyclists on shared use trails; and cars, motorcycles and other cyclists, and indeed ebikes on the roadway, but someone paints a line down the side of the road and suddenly you are unable to share this lane with ebikes, which after all are about the same size and speed as cyclists? If you were so concerned about safety, you would be wearing a helmet, would not breeze through stop signs and red lights, and take to the sidewalk at a whim. Which brings us back to the original question "Why all the ebike hate?".

We cyclists so jealously guard the space allocated to us that we unconsciously adopt a double-standard toward road use. We scream & shout whenever a car intrudes into the bike lane to avoid an obstacle, yet we give drivers the finger when they honk as we swerve into traffic to get around parked cars, slow cyclists or lazy pedestrians. Ebikes 'rarely' are a nuisance on the bike lanes, yet our hackles are raised by their presence for pretty much the same reason car drivers find cyclists irritating.

As I get older (I am beyond 50) I find that if we just take a deep breath, relax, and indulge in a little give-and-take during our commute everyone can get along just fine.

Its not about the ebike its about the person who rides it.. whether its an ebike, motorcycle, car or bicycle it doesnt matter if you are not responsible YOU ARE THE ONE. To be HATED... peace

I was riding an ebike at night on a busy street but do to impatient drivers I had to move into the bike lane I came up behind a cyclist and had to slow down (I couldn’t safely pass him) I then understood how drivers must feel but I am also a cyclist so I was a bit worried that I might spook him with the quieter ebike. I want to buy the Organic Transit Elf a 3 wheeled enclosed bike with the option of a motor assist for large hills (The escarpment) it’s classified as an E-Bike but I don’t plan on using the motor that often.

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