My wife and I recently purchased a Christiania cargo bike imported from Copenhagen:
This was mainly as a second way to transport my daughter (8 months) around if our single car was being used. It is fantastic and the only issue is that our daughter falls asleep almost as soon as we set off! A good issue to have.
Now the purists among you may not like this – the bike has an electric motor with only a single, low gear. This means the bike is quite slow (15-20km/h) but handles hills with no problems. The bike weighs around 35 kgs (not including our 11kg baby and shopping) so this is invaluable around the Devonport peninsula. It actually even has a reverse setting in addition to the high and low power settings. It also has a small green button that can be pushed when going downhill which activates the regenerative braking and recharges the battery. As it is a trike and not a bike, no helmet is required under law but we can still take it on the Devonport ferry. It is a huge success and we are very happy with it.
I have been riding an electric bike (this one) for around one year. I am a fit, healthy 38 year old and I have been cycling all my life. I would say I am a very confident cyclist in any conditions (even Auckland). So why does someone like me ride an electric bike? Arent I “cheating”?
My answer to that question is always, “only if you think it is a sport”. For me cycling is a means of transport only and one that offers me much more than driving a car or even a scooter, especially for distances up to 5kms. I can take my bicycle on public transport (on the ferry every morning), ride it almost anywhere and park it anywhere. The fact I am not doing 100% of the work myself is irrelevant to me and it just means that I arrive at my destination fresh and ready to go, no shower required. I do plenty of other activities for exercise that keep me more than fit enough.
For me, this is supported by the fact that electric bikes now make up about 15% of bicycle sales in the Netherlands. In Germany the cycle industry expects electric-bike sales to grow by 13% this year, to 430,000 (the most sold in any European country), and to account for 15% of the market before long. In France sales of traditional bicycles fell by 9% in 2012 while those of e-bikes grew by 15% (see here). Even more impressively, data shows that e-bicycles in the Netherlands have contributed to a 9% increase in the distance cycled there, surpassing train mileage in 2011 to rank second behind cars.
My ebike gets me out more often, I ride further and it seems I am not the only one. I may only be expending half the effort but I cycle twice as much, and I always look forward to it. No dreading that big hill, no worrying about that bad knee, no slogging into a head wind at 10km/h (though I have to say that is much more of a problem in Christchurch than Auckland). If you are an older rider who sometimes wonders how much longer you will be able to enjoy the benefits of cycling, the ebike is for you.
Remember, the more of us are out there, the safer we are.