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View Diary: When Is a Bike Not A Bicycle? (41 comments)

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  •  I imagine your survey would yield an opposite (7+ / 0-)

    ... result if it were conducted among readers of Bicycling magazine.

    I was riding to work on a bike path yesterday and got passed, suddenly, by a Razor-type scooter with a two-stroke gas engine on it going about 20 mph. I was going about 17 at the time. IT startled me and my first thought was that the idiot driving it would not be bale to react quickly enough if a jogger with earbuds in suddenly darted in front of him, as happens so often on paths that serve as both cycling and jogging paths.

    I'm not against electric bikes, but I agree we need to get a handle on how to regulate their use on paths, particularly, multi-use paths.

    My guess is that as these new, powered cycles become more affordable, and, thus, more ubiquitous, unpowered cyclists will increasingly resist efforts to "share the path" with powered cycles, primarily for safety reasons.

    I think if powered cycles were restricted to somewhere between 15 and 20 mph, that would offer some comfort to cyclists.

    I tested an electric bike about two years ago at the request of a friend who rents them to tourists, and I found them to be cumbersome and to have less than stellar handling compared to a regular bike. On a crowded multi-use path, that lack of handling agility at 20 mph will undoubtedly lead to some serious injuries for motorized cyclists, joggers, in-line skaters and regular cyclists.

    •  There most certainly would be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Deward Hastings, Bob Johnson

      ... an opposite result. Most people view the paths as a respite from the motorized vehicles. I think most path users don't even like it when bicyclists use the paths at effective commuting speeds. Personally, if I plan to exceed 18 miles per hour, I take to the road.

      I also dislike the diarists assumption that it is dangerous to use these electric vehicles on the road. Hundreds of thousands of human powered bicycles are used safely on the streets and roads every day across America. Millions more in Europe. Riding along side multi-ton monstrosities just takes a bit of common sense and skill.

      I am one of those who will push hard for a ban of EVs on paths unless there are strict limits and licensing.  

      1,000,000 Strong! TOTAL RECALL!

      by pHunbalanced on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 07:10:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's a complicated question. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, Deward Hastings, HeyMikey

        There are two types of paths: multi-use and bikes-only. Most bikes-only paths are carved out of existing streets. Even there, I have concerns about motorized bikes. For example, as any bicyclist will attest, riding against a stiff headwind is hard work and reduces speed. So let's say the average speed of commuter cycling traffic is 13 mph or even less on such a day. The motorized bike has no problem still hitting 20, which means it is going 7-8 mph faster than the flow of bikes. Add to that the fact that the motorized bike is heavier and less maneuverable than the bicycles it is passing. So when someone suddenly stops or a pedestrian steps into the path and someone has to swerve, what happens?

        The problems ate only compounded on a multi-use path.

        •  I forgot that what I call bike lanes are also (3+ / 0-)

          called bike paths by some folks. I have much less of a problem with motorized bikes in the bike lane/path of a street than on a multi-use path. MUPs are full of little kids on their little bikes, dogs wandering about on overly long leads and daydreamers of all sorts. Motorized vehicles cannot coexist with all that without some increase in pain and death. Street-based bike lanes tend to have a different type of cyclist, though some do ride at only 10-12 mph. And of course, in that case, the motor-biker can always pass in the "car" lane. I often do that on a non-motorized bike.

          1,000,000 Strong! TOTAL RECALL!

          by pHunbalanced on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 10:05:15 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Licensing (5+ / 0-)

        I've quite recently become interested in this sort of bicycle for very practical reasons.  I'm basically going blind in my left eye.  I'll never pass another driver's license eye exam, and really, for the safety of myself and others I should no longer be driving now.

        But.  I'm in my 50s.  I'm nowhere near retirement age;  I'm single, childless and pretty much entirely alone in our high-mobility-required American "rugged individualist" society, in which survival is largely dependent on one's ability to provide one's own means of transportation.  How am I to get back and forth to work?  Do basic shopping and other errands?  Our society is so totally structured around the private automobile that when one no longer can operate a car, you basically might as well just go die.

        This sort of vehicle seems to offer a middle way, an imperfect but somewhat serviceable alternative.  However, licensing to operate one puts me right back to the position where I won't be able to get a license to operate because of the loss of vision on one side.

        I'm not interested in being a leech on others or society.  I find it nearly impossible to ask others for occasional favors, never mind requiring that some persons be dumped with maintaining some tiny minimum of independence in my life, an entirely dependent independence that will only annoy both myself , the others asked to provide the service, and those who in the end pay for it.  There was a reason I was in basic trainiing at 17 three weeks after HS graduation, I didn't want to be a burden to anyone else and that was the quickest solution.  However, if this sort of transportation option requires passing a vision test, it thrusts me irretrievably into that status, for who knows how many years where others will despise me as a burden, and I will despise my life without autonomy, where others will resent my needs, and I will resent having my needs resented.  Not the way I want to live.

        Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

        by ActivistGuy on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 07:31:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  exactly right: disability access. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bob Johnson, HeyMikey

          E-bikes are disability access for people who can't pedal.  Add to the list: arthritis, other muscle & skeletal issues, cardiac and pulmonary issues, etc. etc.

          The question is whether we want to go back to the days when having any kind of disability meant being cooped-up in one's house or apartment, or whether we want to keep going forward with greater accessibility for all.

          And a 3-mile-per-hour electric wheelchair with a limited range, is not the answer for people in these circumstances.  

          Bottom line is, e-bikes make it possible for people with disabilities short of wheelchair usage, to have something approaching normal mobility in most parts of the US.  

          For which reason they should be able to provide the equivalent of "normal bicycle performance for a person in normal physical health," purely with the use of the electric motor.  

          "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

          by G2geek on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 11:16:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  If it has built in turn signals and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Johnson, Deward Hastings

      brake lights it's not a bicycle. Just my opinion.

      Lo que separa la civilizacion de la anarquia son solo siete comidas.

      by psilocynic on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 07:29:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's trivially easy to add... (0+ / 0-)

        .... both to any bicycle.  

        A "microswitch" on each brake lever, wired in parallel to an LED light at the center rear.

        A pushbutton switch on each handlebar that you press when about to turn and while turning, wired to a blinking LED light on each handlebar and another on each end of a short cross-arm at the rear.

        One rechargeable battery, and some wire (multi-pair telephone or data cable will do nicely).  Possibly a bit of silicon caulking goo to waterproof the connections at the switches.

        Total cost less than $50.  Added benefit: you can keep both hands on the handlebars while turning or stopping, rather than having to take one hand off to make a manual signal.  

        "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

        by G2geek on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 01:58:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  No "motorized vehicles" . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Johnson, pHunbalanced

      seems simple enough.  In general even pedal powered bicycles are not permitted on sidewalks . . . "motorbikes" should never be.  On "multi-use" paths (especially "trails") we already have sufficient "conflict" between aggressive pedal-pushers and pedestrians (and even other bicyclists) . . . adding 5-10 "powered" mph to the mix would be insane.

      On the street it's a different story . . . cyclists are already required to mingle with automobiles, and to follow the "rules of the road".  In that context a little extra speed is probably a good thing . . . but as a practical matter a Vespa sized "scooter" makes far more sense than a moped.

      Motors belong on motorways, not on sidewalks, paths and trails.

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 07:52:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  know anyone with a disability that's... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Johnson

        .... somewhere short of the need for a wheelchair?

        How, exactly, are they supposed to get around if they don't qualify for an automobile license?   ("Take the bus" doesn't count: in most places the bus system is wholly inadequate, and holding "cripples" hostage as a means of lobbying for better buses is just downright cruel.)

        "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

        by G2geek on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 11:19:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "agility" is only an issue if... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Johnson

      .... people behave unsafely, such as "darting" hither and yon, or wearing "earbuds" anywhere but purely pedestrian areas.

      A person on a conventional bicycle can kill a jogger who darts into the road wearing earbuds.  

      A cyclist who suddenly swerves into the path of another cyclist can cause an injury accident.

      For that matter a jogger on a sidewalk can run into a pedestrian and knock them over, causing injuries.  

      The answer to all of these things is constant and frequently-repeated safety messages emphasizing the need to be aware of one's surroundings while out in public, and not make unexpected changes of position/direction/velocity without looking around first and/or signaling.

      "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

      by G2geek on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 11:07:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think the speed differential coupled with the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pHunbalanced, skrekk

        ... the heavier and less agile machine is the issue.

        Yes, bike-runner accidents happen all the time on multi-use paths. But many more accidents are avoided because a bike is far more maneuverable than an e-bike.

        •  this is what is inescapable from your logic: (0+ / 0-)

          "Maneuverability" is a rough heuristic for mass and inertia.

          A 175-pound rider on a 100-pound e-bike, has the same mass, and the same inertia, therefore the same maneuverability, as a 250-pound rider on a 25-pound conventional bicycle.

          The laws of physics don't care about what makes up a given quantity of mass.  

          SO: By the "maneuverability" standard, we should also ban fat people from riding conventional bicycles on the same public rights-of-way.

          Are you so sure you want to go there?  

          "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

          by G2geek on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 12:01:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good lord, are you that defensive? (0+ / 0-)

            I have ridden both conventional bikes and an e bike. The e bike is less maneuverable. Period.

            Does everything have to be fight with you?


            •  "defensive driving" is always a smart idea. (0+ / 0-)

              Though I prefer the phrase "driving aware."

              The e-bike plus rider, is equally maneuverable as any other combination of bike, rider, and cargo having equal mass.  

              Try this: weigh an e-bike, and weigh your regular bike.  Now add a quantity of weight to your regular bike to make it weigh as much as the e-bike.  Now do comparable road tests.

              Your arguement isn't with me, it's with Isaac Newton, and he has a way of winning those arguements.  

              "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

              by G2geek on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 02:02:42 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I weigh the same no matter which bike I'm on. (0+ / 0-)

                An e bike is not as nimble or maneuverable as a regular bike. It's not. Your obscuring the issue.

                •  it's the total weight: bike, rider, cargo. (0+ / 0-)

                  This is basic Newtonian physics:

                  Total mass = bike + rider + cargo.  Total mass determines the input of energy to increase or decrease speed or to change direction.

                  A typical American bicycle weighs about 30 lbs.

                  A battery pack weighs about 50 lbs.

                  A person of any given weight will find an e-bike "less maneuverable" simply due to the increased mass of the battery pack.  

                  But a lighter person on an e-bike is every bit as "maneuverable" as a heavier person on a regular bike.  

                  A 150-lb. person on an 80-lb. e-bike has the same total weight as a 200-lb person on 30-lb. a regular bike.  Both of those cases weigh 230 lbs.  And 230 lbs. requires the same input of energy to increase or decrease speed or to change direction, regardless of how the 230 lbs. is distributed between the person and the vehicle.  

                  We don't make policies, laws, or regulations, with different rules for people of different weights.  

                  We don't tell the heavier person they can't carry an additional 50 lbs. of cargo on their bike, whether the cargo is groceries or batteries or both, just so they can stop in the same distance as a lighter person.  Instead we simply say that they have to be able to stop before they hit someone or something, and we leave that up to each rider and each bicycle (electric or not) as to how to achieve that result.  

                  A heavier person has to allow for more stopping distance than a lighter person.  A person carrying a load, whether groceries and/or batteries and/or whatever, has to allow for more stopping distance than a person who isn't carrying a load.  

                  And it's also the case that people adapt their riding to the machine and its load.  When someone starts using a bike for grocery shopping, they get used to the added weight.  Same case when someone starts using a bike that's heavier because it's got batteries onboard.  

                  "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

                  by G2geek on Wed Oct 03, 2012 at 08:07:37 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

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