The necessity of electric bikes

Lately I’ve noticed that I see much more electric bikes riding around. We’re participating in it as well. We have bought an electric cargo bike, the Gazelle Makki, to transport our two children. We used an ordinary (non-electric) city bike to transport them before, with our oldest daughter in the child seat mounted on the back and our youngest daughter mounted on the front of the bike. Our youngest daughter became too tall for the child seat at the front however. Because of this a cargo bike was our only option if we wanted to transport two children with one adult.

Stephanie has to travel eleven kilometers to her work and is now considering to buy an electric city bike so that she doesn’t have to use the car. This would be healthier, more sustainable and cheaper because of the high petrol prices. She doesn’t cycle fast and is afraid to arrive at work all sweaty with an ordinary bike. I have to travel eight kilometers to get to work and will keep doing so on an ordinary bike.

Except for the transport of small children and commuting which previously done with the car, there of course a large group of elderly people who benefit from the electric bike as well. About twenty five years ago my grandma of over seventy years of age regularly rode her ordinary bike for several kilometers. In that time electric bikes weren’t popular. Not every senior needs an electric bike. Yet a large part of the elderly is able to travel now thanks to electric bikes. They weren’t able to do so before because an ordinary bike would have been to exhausting for them. This also applies to a group of people with handicaps, such as bad knees.

Even so, I think the trend of electric bikes has gone too far. Children who travel to school generally don’t travel long distances and are sufficiently fit, they certainly don’t need electric bikes. I also see people in their twenties and thirties on electric bikes, which make me wonder if they really travel the long distances which make an electric bike desirable. For that group an electric bike seems more like a replacement for an ordinary bike than for a car.

This is bad because we are in the middle of an climate change crisis and a health crisis. Electric bikes may use far less electricity than an average household does per day and certainly less than an electric car, but every Watt hour which is consumed without necessity is one too many. Next to that electric bikes reduce safety in traffic because of their higher speeds. Let’s be critical and consider if we really need an electric bike. My daughters certainly won’t get an electric bike to travel to school later.

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