Bike to Work Week: Are e-bikes the answer to health, traffic and environmental issues?

Melissa Wenzel got rid of her Toyota Prius in April 2018.

After battling cancer, arthritis and severe knee pain for years, the 41-year-old Minnesota native found an active solution to help her “transition back to a healthy lifestyle that simultaneously helps the environment.”

She bought an e-bike.

“I was just finishing my treatment for leukemia and I had gained a lot of weight,” Wenzel said. “I needed tools to help me get active again, so I bought an e-bike that has literally become my car.”

She said the Pedego City Commuter she bought has a pedal assist that she uses when she’s running late to work, and a throttle that she engages “if the chain pops off so I can get somewhere safely.”

The electric-powered two-wheeler delivers moderate support when she needs it and she turns the assist off when she wants to “enjoy a slow, relaxing ride on a sunny spring day.”

Transportation enthusiasts pay a lot of attention to the future of electric-powered cars and robotaxis. We often keep our eyes on cars that can fly, robotic delivery services, and human-carrying drones that can transport passengers across town.

But in a world concerned about fuel economy, health, and convenience, perhaps the tech-forward answers to today’s commuting problems are already on roads across the country right now.

Electric two-wheelers are taking Europe and Asia by storm, and big cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta have a growing market of e-bikes on the streets, and the prospects of commuter adaptation seem promising.

In fact, while standard bicycle sales have remained stagnant for the past three years, e-bike sales were up 79% in 2018, according to the market research firm NPD Group which also said that U.S. e-bike sales are eight times as great as they were in 2014.

So far in 2019, wholesale bike sales are down for every category expect e-bikes, which are up 24.7% over last year, according to the latest Bicycle Product Suppliers Association Sell-in Report.

Bicycle manufacturer Trek says e-bikes are the company’s fastest-growing segment.

“How many products do you know that (if) 100 people go on a test drive, they all come back and have a big smile?” said Trek CEO John Burke about e-bikes.

“I think it’s word of mouth. I think consumers are driving e-bikes (sales).”

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