Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

E-bikes antidote to high gas prices (con't)

And to recharge an e-bike takes only a matter of hours.

And unlike a regular pedal bicycle e-bikes provide users with enough speed to allow them to go considerable distances - such as daily commutes, runabouts or even as delivery vehicles - in the same manner as a motorcycle and without having to use muscle power.

Their top speed, regulated under provincial law, is 32 kph.

But for increasingly more people that's fast enough, especially in an era when gas is becoming more expensive and other costs associated with motor vehicles - insurance and maintenance - can make car ownership prohibitive.

"The majority (of buyers) are low income," owner Lenn Curis says. "People that can't afford a car. It's their own transportation unless you want to sit on a bus for eight hours."

Curtis says young people, who have to pay extraordinary insurance premiums, are a prime market.

E-bikes come in various models and retail for between $700 and $1700, at least at Curtis's shop.

There are two basic styles.

One - the most popular - looks like a motor scooter.

The other looks like a traditional bicycle with motor attached to a wheel.

Curtis says he's selling about "five a day."

E-bikes have been subject of some controversy.

Some people complain they shouldn't be allowed on off-road trails or bicycle paths.

"Why not?" asks Curtis.

"If you read the law you're not to impede pedestrian traffic. So it's the rider. You can have a jogger out there who's bothering people and he's using his feet. I've seen joggers running right up behind people and saying, 'Get out of my way!'"

If there's a problem with the law Curtis says e-bikes should be allowed to go faster by allowing 1000 watt motors compared to the current limit of 500 watts.

"Right now they're going too slow on the road," he said.

"In Europe they go along with traffic, in Canada they're going too slow so you're more prone to get hit."

Some e-bike users illegally retrofit their vehicles to go faster.

Is their a campaign against e-bikes?

Curtis thinks it might be those motorists who don't like sharing the road.

"We hear horror stories of people actually rode right off the road."

He also thinks the insurance industry is "driving" the anti-e-bike campaign.

He suggested insurers would love to charge separately for e-bikes and make much more money than being included under home inurance premiums.

"That's the kicker."

According to MTO, to operate an e-bike, 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, all operators/riders/passengers must be 16 years of age and older, all persons operating an e-bike are required to wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet.

But the traditional bicycle style e-bikes aren't selling well.

Courtesy Bicycles owner John Palombo says he's thinking of "getting rid" of the one model he carries.

Those bikes have a motor that kicks in when the peddler is under a strain such as going uphill.

But people simply aren't buying them.

"If we sell half a dozen year that's about it," Palombo said.

Palombo also doesn't understand the animosity towards e-bike users.

"They obey the rules on the road just like everybody else," he says. "I don't know why (people keep) complaining about it."

Palombo thinks a reason the scooter e-bike is more popular is because it has a storage box making it more convenient and easier to run errands.

Meanwhile, Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said there is no campaign by his industry to get e-bikes more regulated, including dedicated insurance premiums.

"Nope, unless the government makes the decision that they will be treated differently the insurers will treat e-bikes just like regular pedal-powered bikes.


Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.