Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"MIT team peddles more power per pedal"

Found this over at thanks to Jessica Tanner over at Vermont Livable Streets, which is part of the Streets Community at Anyway wanted to pass this on for a couple reasons.

One it’s really cool! As an owner of an e-bike retrofit, I know that they are useful and helpful especially for people with long commutes or may not be in the best physical shape yet(which I was not at the time I got it). The price on this prototype is also very good and affordable.

Second though this did not seem the focus, this is designed for European countries that already have ~30% bike trip share and are looking for more. For many reasons older people have given up on the bike and are now in a car, usually distance to travel is a major reason and well they are old, and while going up a hill as a 20 something youngin may be easy, for an older person this can prove impossible. So this is something designed to get fringes on board the bike. People with longer commutes, people who may be frailer or who are not as strong as they use to be, or for people that live in hilly districts and find it hard or annoying to be peddling up and down hills all day.

This is not for most Americans, or more importantly, cities should not be spending money on getting e-bikes for the cities, or even bike share schemes, unless that city is San Francisco ;) we have not even got the kids and the 20 something’s all on board, let alone women at all. That is only done through improvements in safety both subjective and actual; it is done through ease of the journey from origin to destination through mapping, through timed lights, through bike parking, and through path surface and geographic location. The quality of the paths are also important, not just where they go but how they go, completely segregated networks are ideal for getting the most amount of people on a bike, especially women. These are of course not cheap and not easy, its easy to strip a line next to the car doors and call it good, its much harder to redesign an existing area to allow separation of cyclists from other forms of traffic. To be fair most of our planners grew up in a country where places like MIT only taught about road planning and highway planning and maybe some rail, they didn’t do complete streets planning, or bike planning or true pedestrian planning (a sidewalk does not cut it) However until that is done, and either they are replaced or relearn, we will never see the rates that most of Europe has, at least not without banning cars in cites and towns all together(hmm another good idea?). Once we have done that (if we have done that) then the push should be for e-bikes and more options for mobility impaired people.

I sometimes fear the allure of oooo shiny new tech tends to go to politicians (and consumers) minds and the forget that its the non pretty, non shiny things, like the planning of a separated bike path through a park, that actually get large numbers of people on their bikes, not how pretty the toy may be (although fashion can get a certain % on a bike, see fixies.)

So overall very promising for sure and will be needed as we must move further from burning of fossil fuels for transportation. E-bikes of all sorts have a future but there are some things we need to do first before we push for them here in the US. Europe eat your heart out ;) article link

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