Electric Bikes and Future Transport

In San Francisco and many parts of Europe, electrically-enhanced personal transport is really taking off. It’s hard to walk down the Embarcadero without having an electric scooter wiz by, and the Caltrain platforms host Segways, Onewheels, Boost skateboards and other gadgets regularly. Just yesterday I saw a guy jogging, followed closely by a toy RC-car blaring Metallica, which seemed to be his autonomous tethered running companion. I’m not sure what it was, but innovation and experimentation is happening.

Electric skateboards on the Embarcadero

Apparently mountain bikers in the German Alps made the move to e-Bikes (electric-assist, no throttle) quite a while ago, and the US is still trying to catch up to the trend. Amusingly there are a contingent of biking “purists” (some might call them “late adopters” in Silicon Valley startup parlance) who feel that using advanced power technology is “cheating”. They say this while riding around on their $6000 ultra-light carbon-fiber bikes, with hydraulic shocks, and 21 gears to make going up hills easier. From the looks of the Embarcadero waterfront, people seem to like cheating a bit. In addition to that, e-bikes are allowing disabled or elderly riders to get up hills or go on longer rides than they normally would be able to.

E-bike meetup

The e-Mountain-Bike technology is affecting other areas of biking as well such as commuter-bikes for people riding longer distances to work each day, or bike messengers who can push large loads in front storage boxes. There is also a new trend in bike-camping, which uses fat-tire bikes with large panniers to carry camping gear to remote locations.

An electric motor installed inside a wheel

There is a lot of innovation happening in the personal transport space at the moment, and it’s fascinating to watch it unfold. Rangers still occasionally give tickets for riding e-bikes on trails that permit bikes, and feedback from other bikers ranges from extreme curiosity to partial antagonism. The tension between acceptable laws to govern behavior, actual resulting behavior, repercussions of behavior, accurate knowledge of the technology, number of adopters, and visibility of the technology, all contribute to whether new patterns of behavior become a reality or not. At this point, it is pretty clear that we are going to be seeing a revolution in “walking-alternative” types of electric transport devices, and that familiarity with this technology will cause it to extend into a range of other sports and outdoor activities over time.

Originally published at www.uxoftravel.com.