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E-Bikes: Public Perceptions & Policy

Last Fall we asked League members and others on social media for their thoughts about electric bicycles. We received over 700 responses and learned a lot in the process. In our new report, “Electric Bicycles: Public Perceptions & Policy,” we examine your responses and what they might mean for the League’s position on electric bicycles and the ways in which electric bicycles might impact our mission to create a bicycle-friendly America for everyone.

Electric bicycles offer an option that allows more people to use bicycles in more situations. Previous research from Portland State University found that 60% of electric bicycle riders surveyed bought an electric bicycle to enable trips in hilly areas and 73% rode to different destinations than with a standard bicycle. 65% of respondents in that survey said replacing car trips was a main reason to get an electric bicycle.

Our survey found that:

  • People broadly believe in the positive benefits of electric bicycles for transportation and utility bicycling. More than 80% of respondents agreed with the positive sentiments that we asked about.
  • However, vehicles currently sold as “electric bicycles,” “e-bikes,” or similar descriptors are not always thought of as bicycles. We asked about 8 vehicles marketed as “electric bicycles. 6 of the vehicles complied with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) definition for “low-speed electric bicycle,” while 2 did not.
    • Only two of the vehicles were considered to be bicycles by a majority of respondents.
    • A majority of respondents said that two of the vehicles should never be treated like bicycles.
    • People seemed to make distinctions that are not made by the CPSC definition. Higher speeds, non-traditional styling or form, and throttle-based acceleration all led to people not viewing vehicles, whether they complied with the CPSC definition or not, as bicycles.
    • There is some resistance to sharing infrastructure with electric bicycles, particularly infrastructure that is already shared with pedestrians.

Moving forward, it is important to us to continue engaging in these conversations about how electric bicycles will impact what it means to be a bicyclist and how we can realize the promise of electric bicycles for bicyclists. Many states have yet to adopt legislation that recognizes electric bicycles as a new form of vehicle and enables them to be treated like bicycles.

We look forward to working with our members, advocates, educators, and Bicycle Friendly America program partners to create electric bicycle legislation and policies that help electric bicycles contribute to our mission to create a bicycle-friendly America for everyone. 

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