Is Electric Bike the Future of Transportation?


A future on two wheels? The e-bike or electric bike is expected to replace the car for a growing number of city dwellers.

That’s what we saw in the spring edition of the Toronto International Bicycle Show, held March 1-3 at the Better Living Center at Toronto’s Exhibition Center. More than 175 exhibitors have taken part.

Is e-biking just another transport?

Cycling, Olympic sports discipline, sees its practice take a gigantic turn in recent years with the electric bike.

For most exhibitors at the bike fair, the explanation is clear: “E-bikes can easily slip into road traffic. They, therefore, help to significantly gain time,” says one of the exhibitors.

“E-bikes also mean less pollution, less fuel consumed, less parking space to pay, so e-bikes also mean lots of savings,” he adds, admitting having sold his car himself.

As we are faced with the need to find clean means of transportation, the electric bike seems to be a credible option. Merchants and designers seem to have understood this.

For all tastes and all prices

In the large exhibition hall, there are countless electric bikes, which can satisfy all the uses and desires.

This is what an exhibitor at the Bosch stand explains: “If you want a mountain bike, a bike for recreational use, or even a cargo bike that will replace your car, it’s possible. An electric bike exists for every type of use and desire. It was surely not the case 4 or 5 years ago. “

E-bikes used to be mainly for the elderly in the past. Now, the Bicycle Show is also a way of “informing the public about electric bikes”. Now, both office personnel, as well as, for example, home food delivery companies could become interested in this possibility.”

To further win the hearts of the public, a bike path of about 700 meters was available to visitors wanting to test an e-bike of their dreams.

Not that affordable yet

Each type of electric bike has a price, relatively high for most. It takes at least $ 2,000 to get a new e-bike. In a market where such price can be not easy to take, companies must rely on effective marketing.

Éric Alain, manager of Ebgo, is committed to offering the “cheapest electric bike”. His collaborator completes: “to propose an electric bike to 8000 $, it is simple. Just take the best materials on the market. Making an e-bike for less than $ 2500 and of good quality is a lot more difficult.” This seems to be their goal.

Other companies, such as Gear, rely on a high-performance after-sales service and customer support in the long term.

Yet, there are other views

While the electric bike seems to get more supporters, many traditional bike lovers are rebelling.

A visitor says: “For me, it’s as if we were changing the real use of the bike. It’s not even a sport anymore, it’s being transformed to something else. “

A couple, however, nuances the point: “on the other hand, it brings a lot of people to the practice of sport, which is a good thing.”

Will e-bikes help open up rural areas?

In Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France the local community is developing a network of bicycle lanes to facilitate the travel of its inhabitants. And this is not easy in a largely rural and hilly territory.

The boom in the electric-assisted bicycles (e-bikes) is not just for large cities. In areas with rural dominance, too, one is interested in this trend to better connect the communes with each other. And the major goal: to provide a solution to those for whom regular public transport is too far away or travel may be too expensive.

In the East of France, in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, such a project is already underway. This young community, created only in 2017, with atypical profile – 78,000 inhabitants spread over 77 communes – responded to a government “French Mobility” projects. The commune now is one of the twenty-six finalists.

In this hilly area, we want to promote the “active mobility” concept. “It’s all about traveling to work and leisure, which is not the car: cycling, walking, and school buses,” says Vincent Benoît, vice-president of the community, in charge of Sustainable Mobility.

“We have a territory that is at once urban, semi-urban and very rural, with the landscape that is impractical for mobility. There is a central valley – that is of the Meurthe – that crosses the whole territory, plus other small valleys that are not connected with each other, other than via the large valley,” explains Vincent Benoît.

Bring people closer to jobs

About 80% of the inhabitants of the territory also work there. Hence the challenge – to offer mobility solutions to those who live far from larger cities and cannot afford to travel. The lack of mobility, one of the first hurdles to find a job.

“The price of fuel affects the purchasing power of the population and a city like Saint-Die is very quickly congested during rush hours, especially because everyone is alone in a car, Vincent Benoît deplores. Our agglomeration is not the best geographically, so job seekers have difficulty finding jobs. It’s up to us to offer what we can as a means of inexpensive travel. “

This is where electric bikes start playing a role. Even though prices for e-bikes are still high (from 500 euros for the most basic models, on average). And the question of financial aid with the purchase is not yet been decided. What is already visible for the “mobility” manager of the city council, “is that we see people cycling in the flat areas of the territory. We talk about this because we see bicycles riding around”.

No less than thirty-five kilometers of cycle tracks will be built in the next, maximum, eight years. Budget: between six and eight million euros, financed by various stakeholders (commune, state, region …). Objective: to better connect the municipalities with each other and to open up those, poorly served by public transport.

Riding the hills by bike? “With the progress that we’ve made with electric bikes, they are becoming easy to use and we think it will be possible to climb hills by using e-bikes, which was not happening before. That’s why previously, people did not ride their traditional bikes more often, “says Vincent Benoît.

A festival of mobility

In the next two years, multimodal exchanges will be created in Saint-Dié and Raon-l’Etape. This will include secure garages for bicycles and charging stations for e-bikes. This will, hopefully, facilitate the bicycle trips between home and railway stations.

However, electric bicycles are not the only sustainable mode of travel considered. The community is working on developing charging stations for electric cars. The rise of transport on demand is taking place and the implementation of a local carpooling app is under study (two new areas are under construction, and nine are already active).

The objective for this year: “To build the section of cycle lane between Saint-Dié and Saint-Léonard. This will continue the greenway that already exists and that goes up the Meurthe Valley for about fifteen kilometers”, reported the community representative.

It will also be necessary to recruit an “ambassador of mobility”, who will study the typical routes on the territory. This information will contribute to the connection between the greenways of the territory and, perhaps, to the extension of the network in the years to come.

As a symbol of the upcoming changes, on June 8 this year, Saint-Dié will host its first Festival of active mobility, where associations and other actors will propose to the public to discover “the means of the mobility of which people do not think yet or do not yet have access to”, says Vincent Benoît.

For the first time this year also, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges will host one of the rides of the Tour de France (Saint-Dié / Colmar, July 10). And this is yet another symbol of the changing times.

This post was translated from French. The original versions were published on L-Express Canada and Le Parisien. Photo credit – public domain.

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