Ecology

Nikkei Newspaper, February 21, 2017

While America has one of the world’s largest automotive markets, bicycles are becoming more popular every year. In New York City, new and improved bike lanes were built about ten years ago, and welcomed by its inhabitants. More recently, electric bikes – called “EA bikes” (for electric-assist bikes) or “e-bikes” for short – are gaining popularity. Propel Electric Bikes (http://propelbikes.com/), founded by Chris Nolte, specializes in e-bikes. The company began its online operation in 2011, and opened a retail store in Brooklyn in July 2015. The store not only sells bikes but offers repair service as well as a place to exchange information. It serves as a gathering spot for the cycling community.

  

Mr. Nolte, who is a passionate cycler himself, injured his back over ten years ago during his military duties in the Middle East. Unable to cycle a long distance on a regular bike, he switched to an electric bike. This led him to start his business. The company sells bikes by American and European manufacturers. The most popular types range from $2,500 to $4,000. Its annual sales exceeded $1 million in 2016.

 

While the baby boomers use e-bikes mainly for sport and leisure, the more eco-conscious millennials – those born between 1980s to early 2000s – especially those living in metropolitan areas, use them as a method of transportation. Some millennial cyclists commute 10-20 miles each way on their e-bikes, which have a top speed of 20mph. Some even say that a driver’s license is unnecessary.

In the Netherlands, the world’s bicycle capital, electric bikes are more common. There, one out of every three bikes sold is an electric bike, compared to one in every hundred in the U.S. Yet now that e-bikes are becoming increasingly lighter with longer battery life thanks to technological innovation, many expect the e-bike market to continue expanding. One study estimates that the global e-bike sales will grow to $24 billion by 2025.

 

Whether or not electric bikes are allowed in bike lanes depends on each municipality. It is permitted in New York City, where electric bikes may indeed become the popular method of transportation for many in the future.