I've been watching the growth of the e-bike community with interest. There's a lot of controversy, especially because so many North American e-bike owners flagrantly disregard the regulations that permit them to treat e-bikes like bicycles (no licensing, no insurance, yet can ride on most thoroughfares). Principal among them is the disabling of the pedals, with No. 2 being riding on sidewalks.
You don't have to go far to find stories about support for changing the regs, to require e-bike operators to take lessons, be tested and have a separate licensing structure.
I think that would be a huge mistake. Frankly, the arguments for licensing e-bikes are just about the same as the arguments for licensing bicycles, and I don't think there are many cyclists who want to go down that road. If you are a commited cyclist who doesn't want to see more bicycle regulation, you would be wise to argue for education of riders and enforcement by police of the existing regulations.
I have heard enough from police who allege that they don't know how to treat e-bikes, from an enforcement perspective, to suspect that they are only too willing to side with the testing-licensing factions (because they are too lazy to read the new regs?). If you have any contact with your local police force (through your bicycle advisory committee, your local police force, your brother-in-law's uncle), use it to argue for enforcement of the existing regs: Just read the MTO FAQ. It's not rocket science.
Anyway, it was with interest that I surveyed the e-bike offerings as ExpoCycle in Toronto on the weekend.
I saw about six booths dealing with e-bikes, with most of the offerings looking like bikes with battery packs, rather than the scooter-like clones that seem to be so popular (probably because they are structured to carry two riders).
Most of the e-bikes offered at ExpoCycle were the conventional hub-drive bikes. Pedego was the one I took the closest look at. Co-owner Terry Sherry was happy to talk about the vehicle he is confident will revolutionize urban transport (and Greg Moore, of Toronto's ezriders, which sells Pedego, would happily offer you a test ride).
(Above, a Pedego. The focus is on cruiser styling with lots of colour options.)
Sherry says that the average age of Pedego buyers is 59. "These are people who getting out and having fun again. These bikes open up the world to them again. You can watch them go from 55 to 15 (years of age) in a turn of the wrist" because terrain that was too daunting to them before, is now manageable. While he sees his main market now as the Baby Boomer, "gas costs will be the tipping point."
The people at Vancouver-based Epik cycles are focused on e-bikes with more of an urban, street vibe. And they are commited to the crank-case point of contact for the e-assist. The lower centre of gravity provides better control, they say, and ease of movement.
The pedElec system crankcase mechanics mean there is no drag on the wheel when freewheeling, as there can be with hub-mounted systems. The Epiks look darn nice, too. Epik reps weren't saying how many bikes they were selling, but said they are very happy with how they are selling in Vancouver. Anyone who has ridden the varying terrain in that city can understand why an e-bike might be desirable.