difficult Find anything that unites Nashville, Tennessee; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Moab, Utah; and New York City. But all of these communities, and many others, are grappling with the e-bike problem.
No matter where you are in America, electric bikes are going to have a moment. market research firm NPD Say Sales of e-bikes rose 240% in the 12 months to July 2021, outpacing sales of traditional road bikes. This is the second year in a row that e-bike sales have at least doubled.
Experts attribute the surge to the pandemic, which has left locked-down Americans hungry for new, coronavirus-safe ways to get out of their homes and exercise.Electric bike models for families and new riders a particular success, although there is also a burgeoning electric mountain bike community. This shift has inspired advocates of active transportation, who believe that e-bikes—even more than electric cars– Can help reduce emissions from transportation and combat climate change. Meanwhile, bike-sharing companies Motivate and BCycle have joined Pedal Assist Electric Bike, which uses a small motor to power riders to elevate their system.
In Nashville, the local BCycle bike-share system was rebooted last summer because it was all-electric, sparking debate about what kind of vehicles should be able to drive where. The controversy centers on the city’s greenways, a linear system of parks and trails that stretches nearly 100 miles across the city. Tennessee law allows e-bikes under 28 mph in most places, but local jurisdictions can set their own rules. “Motorized vehicles” have long been banned from greenways — although e-bike riders say enforcement is minimal.Some Nashvilleans are also haunted by memories of scooter ag covered street 2018 without prior permission. For these folks, e-bikes feel like just another corporate, tech-driven trick. “As a city, there’s some PTSD,” Metro Commission member Bob Mendes said.
So last summer, the committee passed a resolution directing city agencies to study whether new rules are needed. Cindy Harrison, director of greenways and open spaces at the city’s parks department, said a report will be submitted in a few weeks.
As in many other parts of the country, the new popularity of e-bikes in Nashville pits traditional cyclists against commuters, dog walkers and recreational exercisers for space on limited, flat roads that ban cars. “It’s a car-heavy town that’s been trying to fight from behind for years,” said Mendes, who has owned an e-bike since 2018. Banning e-bikes on greenways, he said, would limit where riders can travel safely. .
But another council member, Kathleen Murphy, said she had heard concerns from voters, usually walkers, about the speed of e-bikes. “With an e-bike, you don’t hear it coming from behind,” she said. “They’re faster and heavier, which is really worrying.”
The debate has divided traditional allies in the fight for car-free space. Nashville-based nonprofit Greenways urges caution and argues that greenways aren’t really meant to be part of a city’s bike or transportation network. “It’s like you’re mixing sidewalks and bike lanes,” Amy Kronover, the group’s executive director, said of plans to allow e-bikes on greenways. But Walk Bike Nashville, an advocacy group that promotes alternative modes of transportation, wants to make electric bikes rideable. Its executive director, Lindsey Ganson, urged locals to see the greenway not only as a space for recreational walking or cycling, but as a greener transportation route.