Skip to main content

Reasons Cyclists Love E-Bikes

Apr 20, 2020 04:16PM ● By Patricia Letakis


If you’ve one of those kids who grew up riding a bicycle around the neighborhood, then you very well know the joy of cycling—and it doesn’t matter if your first cool bike was a fire-engine red Schwinn or a racy black BMX. Cycling is enjoyed by all ages; it’s a timeless sport. But what does change are the styles of bicycles.

As we enter a new decade, the e-bike—an electric bike with a pedal-assisted motor—is one of the fastest-growing bicycle types in the market. According to NPD, a retail-tracking and marketing-forecast service, e-bike dollar sales are up 183% over the last two years.

Salli Kirkland, co-owner of Billy’s Bike Shop, a full-service bike store on Sanibel, can easily list plenty of reasons why the e-bike is so popular. Although users of Class 1 e-bikes ride close to the same speed they ride their traditional bikes, she explains, “They use an e-bike to go farther and ride longer.”

The advantage of this type of bike, she continues, is its battery-powered electric-drive system that is activated only in conjunction with pedaling. The amount of assistance is selected by the rider and will cease when the bike reaches a speed of 20 mph (15-20 mph in some models.) The e-bike is not designed to reach the speed of a car.

For slower cyclists, say older riders or someone with health issues, the e-bike allows them to match the speed and distance of their riding partners. Or in other words baby boomers can keep up with their teenage grandkids. The assist from the e-bike’s motor enables those who thought they had to give up cycling, to continue riding. Another reason is that Southwest Florida’s heat and humidity can make it strenuous to pedal. On those hot days, the motor assist is very useful.

Kirkland loves to tell the story of her seven-day bike ride across North Carolina. “I met a 70-year-old man who was excited to be able to continue his annual ride with his son. He was on an e-bike, his grown son on a traditional bike. The e-bike rider commented that last year he was so exhausted after the week’s ride he vowed it would be his last. His son bought him the e-bike and he was smiling from the saddle as he relayed his joy at still being able to share an active vacation with his son.”

Closer to home, Kirkland says, “It [the e-bike] is an opportunity to enable people to enjoy exercise, enjoy the outdoors and get around Sanibel outside of a motor vehicle.” In European countries like the Netherlands, bicycles are a general mode of transportation, and even in America’s bustling urban centers, bikes are becoming a popular way to navigate the city. On Sanibel, riders often use e-bikes to replace the use of cars for short-distance errands, which helps decrease automobile traffic, congestion and parking issues on the island, as well as reduce emissions—a major environmental concern in Southwest Florida.

Despite all the good reasons for riding electric bikes, not everyone shares the same view. They have been restricted from use on the sidewalks in Fort Myers Beach, and on Sanibel an ordinance, introduced in November last year, contains restrictions on the use and rental of Class 1 pedal-assist e-bikes—and micro-mobility scooters. Concerns include safety, speed and overcrowding on the island’s shared-use paths. 

Since Sanibel’s streets are not equipped with bike lanes, most e-bike riders are not comfortable riding on the road. It only makes sense to allow the e-bikes on the shared-use paths with other cyclists, Kirkland explains.

Continuing she says, “We believe the e-bikes have no more safety issues than traditional bikes and should be allowed on the paths now. If there are issues that arise from these bikes, the city can acknowledge what they are and plan how to modify paths and procedures to embrace our future as a gold status Bike Friendly Community [an award given by The League of American Bicyclists] rather than hide from the future of healthy cycling transportation on Sanibel.”

One thing for sure, e-bikes are here to stay.

Patricia Letakis is the managing editor at TOTI Media.