Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Electic Bikes

But, before I get to ebikes, I have to report that I came within inches of being splattered on the asphalt on my morning commute when some numbskull in an SUV made a right turn without shoulder checking. So, I followed him into the parking lot, where he kept driving, clearly aware that I was tailing him. Finally, he had no choice but to stop, and when his passenger opened the door, I explained that he needs to shoulder check before making a right turn, after which she apologized (the driver refused to look at me), and then I said, "well look next time." And, now, ebikes...

I appeal to the lawmakers of this province to review the licensing requirements for ebikes. Currently, the requirements are:
  • No driver's licence is required
  • No written test is required
  • No vehicle registration or plate is required
  • No motor vehicle liability insurance is required

Having been forced to share the road (and by that I mean bikes lanes) with ebikes, I'd say it's time for a review.  I realize that what I am about to say will strike some as hypocritical.  Or, what's worse is that I might end up appearing as ignorant as Jacob Richler.

If there's one thing I cannot stand it is those who argue that all cyclists are law-breakers and dangerous, and that's simply not true. I know that there are lots of law-abiding cyclists out there who stop at traffic lights and don't ride on sidewalks. And, of course, there are lots of responsible ebike riders, but many of my interactions have left me angry and feeling like I am in danger when riding my bicycle.

The aspect that most concerns me is having to share a bike lane with a motorized vehicle.  According to the website referenced above, ebikes would seem to be welcome in bike lanes:
E-bikes are allowed to travel anywhere bicycles are permitted to travel.  Any municipal by-law prohibiting bicycles from highways under their jurisdiction also apply to e-bikes. Municipalities may also pass by-laws specific to e-bikes that prohibit them from municipal roads, sidewalks, bike paths, bike trails, and bike lanes under their jurisdiction.
And, indeed, the city of Toronto bike lane bylaws state the following: "According to City of Toronto bike lane bylaws, bicycles must be propelled by muscular power."( So, if you are driving an ebike, please GET OUT OF THE BIKE LANE! You are breaking the law.

I have been honked at, passed very closely at high speeds, and cursed at by ebike riders. Last year, I had an altercation with an ebiker who repeatedly honked at me, and then sped by so close that her useless pedals almost clipped me.  I'm all for sharing the road, but bike lanes in Toronto are reserved for non-motorized vehicles.

Yesterday, on my cycle home, an ebike came screaming up beside me at what must have been the maximum 32 km/h. He cut in front of me and then drove up onto the sidewalk where he continued for about 50 to 75 feet before stopping. I worried that anyone exiting a store would have been hit.

I fail to see why these bikes are exempt from licensing laws. They are motorized. They travel at generally faster speeds that bikes. Someone will be hit and injured by one of these things in the future. That's a given.

Most of these things look like electric scooters, so even the name is perplexing. All riders ought to be required to take a safety course like those for motorcycles. I am opposed to the licensing of bicycles because they are non-polluting. Ebikes are polluting. The electricity most likely comes from coal or nuclear power, neither of which are green.


Anonymous said...

Zydeco Fish

The ebike is powered from the electrical grid. Mostly nuclear and hydroelectric. About 10% from gas and coal.

Very little greenhouse pollution. Of course, it takes oil to PRODUCE the ebike, and tires (same as a pedal bike, possibly a bit more if fairings are present).

Batteries are either lead acid (and recyclable), or lithium (again, recyclable). Lithium is better, as it lasts longer.

You need food to power your pedal bike. Your body is around 20% efficient at converting the food energy into motion. The food uses oil for fertilizer, and to process and transport, as well as energy for preparation.

The ebike is around 80% efficient at converting electricity (again, primarily from nuclear or hydro) to motion.

What is interesting is that the pedal bike is MORE polluting than the ebike. Walking is slightly more polluting than biking.

If you want references and citations, email me: fred (dot) weigel (at) treklogic (dot) com


orillia3 said...

A license and insurance did not stop the SUV driver from dangerous driving, yet a license and insurance would stop ebike drivers from dangerous driving by your magical thinking.

What you say might strike some as hypocritical? It certainly does. Someone paints bicyclists negatively with a broad brush, yet you turn around and do the same with ebikers. Like you, I obey all the traffic laws and am nothing but corteous (I assume you are never seen breezing through red lights nor crowding pedestrians on sidewalks).

The Federal Government of Canada decided that ebikes with their puny motor of 500 watts maximum should not be classed as a motor vehicle a decade ago. My toaster is 1000 watts by the way, so ebike's power would toast one slice of bread. The Province of Ontario dragging and shuffling its feet finally agreed 8 years (!) later to approve ebikes for Ontario roads. Yet Zydeco Fish thinks she knows better than the Federal government with their study and the the Ontario government with their hearings and trial period.

The Ontario government gave municipalities the option to regulate ebikes on roads under their jurisdiction. Instead of doing so, Toronto relies on a pre ebike approval by the province bylaw. This means that Toronto is out of step with both province and country. According to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act section 195 when the provision of a municipal bylaw for regulating traffic on a highway is inconsistent with that Act, then "the provision of the by-law shall be deemed to be repealed upon the inconsistency arising." So it appears that the Toronto by-law definition of a bicycle is inconsistent with the Act and is therefore void. As Toronto does not have otherwise a definition of an ebike consistent with the Act and no legislation regulating this class of vehicle on municipal roads, it appears that Toronto is the law breaker here, trying to enforce a no longer in force law against ebikes who choose to ride in the bike lanes.

orillia3 said...

I would like to address the issue of pollution. A university study showed bicycles and ebikes used resources roughly the same, however was very small compared to other forms of transportation, even compared to public transportation. Food is an expensive fuel however. Those grapes, whole wheat toast, and eggs all have a large hydrocarbon content to produce and transport, unless you have a vine, wheat field, and chickens in your back yard. In Ontario half the power is generated by nuclear, about 40% by hydro and the rest wind, solar and other. Coal is a miniscule portion of the power mix. In fact I have the option of using Bullfrog power, where all my electricity is green, you do not have that option with gasoline or even food.

Ebikes and bicycles are more alike than they are different, that is why they were classed as bicycles. I get a little tired of pointing out the differences to the uneducated fear mongers like yourself. Transport Canada did a study with various styles of ebikes and determined that full time propulsion was as safe as pedal assist so that is why ebikes have 100% assist options. They determined that a fit cyclist on level ground can average about 500 watts of equivalent muscle power and easily maintain a speed of 32 kph. Of course Lance Armstrong types can go faster (and are not regulated in any way preventing them from doing so, unlike an ebike) and unfit cyclists go slower. Speed should be the governing factor in the traffic stream a certain conveyance belongs. Slow speed like pedestrians, disability scooters, children's bicycles belong on the sidewalk. Medium speed like ebikes and bicycles belong in the bike lanes or the side of the roadway. High speed like cars, trucks and motorcycles belong on the main lanes of the roadways.

I do not understand the animosity between ebikers and bicyclists. You claim to have been harassed by ebikers. I know ebikers who have the same stories about being harassed by bicyclists. We should unite against the common enemy which is the automobile. Cars and trucks kill and maim in staggering numbers, and kill and maim ebikers and cyclists equally. We should be agitating for more and larger bike lanes instead of scrapping of who gets to use the few inadequate lanes we already have.

Ebikers are not another class of beings from another planet. If and ebiker is ignorant, he would be ignorant driving an SUV, a car, or a bicycle. Instead of passing more laws why not enforce the ones we already have?

Anonymous said...

hilarious,,go fuck yourself zydeco....