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Are electric assist bikes a greener alternative to cars in the big city?

Ion battery powered 'pedal assist' bikes provide just enough juice to matter.
Ion battery powered 'pedal assist' bikes provide just enough juice to matter.
Photo Taken by Richard Masoner/Creative Commons

With the price of gas soaring to unreasonable heights in most of the US, a lot of city-dwellers have resorted to making their morning (or nightly) commute to work via bicycle. Due to this fact, over the past several years a new breed of bicycle has emerged from the open gates of manufacturing plants. Electric 'pedal assist' bikes are bikes that, when active, apply extra power to the bikes' wheels when the cyclist pedals.

Between 2012 and 2014, annual sales for electric pedal assist bikes have tripled from previous years, coinciding with rises in oil prices. At the same time, in numerous high-population zones across America, various city councils seem to be hell-bent on banning the use of all electric bicycles, even where designated riding zones have been placed in some cases.

The New York city council passed a law at the end of 2013 banning the use of any electric bicycles within city limits. The bill was non-specific in terms of what type of electric bikes are to be banned; as 'pedal assist' bikes are not the same as 'throttle power' bikes, many people don't know whether they can legally use their new rides.

The fact that anyone can still purchase electric bikes in areas where it isn't legal to ride them for miles around isn't very helpful either. It's like saying you can purchase a book, just don't open or read it in your hometown.

Often the reasons for banning Electric bikes are simply due to safety concerns, thus the federally mandated 20 mph speed limit for any electrically enhanced bike. Some say the speed limit helps, others are of the opinion that it's just so non-electric bikers can keep up with the speed-demons. If that were the case, it's an unjust punishment for cyclists who want an easy ride with less sweating. After all, athletes find it difficult to keep below 30 mph on their non-electric bikes and still get a workout.

Many people think that due to the ridiculous height gas and oil prices have reached, electric pedal assist bikes will become more and more prominent and eventually become a main mode of transportation in many metropolitan areas, if they aren't rounded up by police and trashed before then.

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