Green bikesI’d like to answer that with a resounding yes but sadly I’ve been predicting that for the last three years and I haven’t been right yet. The reality is, most major changes don’t explode onto the scene overnight. They creep into our collective consciousness. They happen here and there, slowly and quietly in the background until that change has reached far enough and deep enough into the market place that some critical mass has been achieved. Then seemingly almost overnight everyone is suddenly aware of this new thing. Remember vinyl records? You gave them to friends and family every Christmas for almost as long as you could remember. Then one Christmas you went to your favorite record shop and found nothing but CDs.

Knowing that e-bikes will never explode onto the scene like CDs or iPods or even push the regular bicycle into second place I should have said something more conservative like; “this year will be the year that E bikes will become a legitimate choice for many people wanting inexpensive and environmentally safe transportation”. Perhaps the following year I could’ve followed up with; “this year more people than ever will be able to choose an E-bike as their choice for their short distance transportation needs”.  What should I say for 2014? Well, I won’t say that 2014 will be the year of the E-bike but I will say that we are closer than ever to reaching that magic number of sales needed for E-bikes to reach some level of nation wide acceptance.

This winter I spent a great deal of time developing a business plan for expanding my electric bike shop. In the process I got to read and interpret a lot of statistical information that will directly influence how quickly people in the US will accept the E bike as “useful” transportation. Although nothing I read could be considered monumental news it was nonetheless encouraging.  It provided proof positive that the E-bike has arrived in the US market and its here to stay. I thought I’d share some of that information here. So, If you’ve been on the fence about purchasing one, your unsure about spending so much money on something you know so little about, or you just want to know more about the state of transportation in the world then please read on.


One undisputed fact is that the need for both personal and public transportation continues to grow every year. As long as people need to leave their homes for work, food, consumables, entertainment or recreation they will need a way to travel.

According to a report from Ward’s Auto the world wide number of cars on the road went from from 980 million in 2009 to over 1.015 billion in 2010.

That number is predicted to reach 2.5 billion by 2050 acording to the International Transport Forum.

China however accounts for nearly half of this increase. Auto registrations jumped 27.5% with more than 16.8 million new vehicles entering their roadways. This gives China some 78 million cars on the road and accounts for nearly half of the1.015 billion cars on the road today.

What’s really scary however is how far countries like China and India still have to go. Today there is one car in China for every 17.2 people. In the US there is one car for every 1.3 people. If China were to catch up with the U.S. they would account for one billion vehicles on their own. ipsnews.

Transportation worlwide currently accounts for 23 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

Daniel Sperling, a professor at UC Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies presented a study last year illustrating how two billion cars would impact our oil supply and our environment. The following are a few highlights from that presentation.

  • Presently the world produces about 87 million barrels of oil per day most of which comes from conventional sources. A world with two billion cars or more will likely require boosting that number to 120 million barrels per day or more.
  • With oil production from conventional wells expecting to flatten in the coming decades, getting to that level will mean using unconventional sources like the Alberta tar sands.
  • With transportation accounting for 23 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions and the fact that unconventional oil is significantly dirtier than conventional oil , simple upgrades in fuel-efficiency on their own won’t be enough to stop the steady uptick in global temperatures.


Bicycles were used for 27% of all trips in the Netherlands in 2013 . In Denmark that number was 18% in Germany the number was 10% and in the United States and Britain the numbers were 1%.

At the 2011 International Transport Forum in Berlin some Europeans urged a 21st century renaissance in bicycle transport, with electric and electric-assist bikes for personal health and the health of the climate.

Practically every major automotive manufacturer in the world is now building electric bicycles.

Because they are easier to use than a standard bike, e-bikes appeal to people that would otherwise never have considered using a bike for transportation. Additional studies have shown that e-bike users tend to use their bikes far more often than regular bicycle users.


  • Anybody that has lost their driver’s license.
  • Anybody that cannot afford or does not want the expense of an automobile.
  • Anybody that has a 5 mile or less work commute.
  • Anybody that regularly travels short distances to and from a location with heavy traffic.
  • Anybody that regularly runs errands of a few miles or less.
  • Anybody between the ages of 18 to 70. (Folks in their 80s are not uncommon)
  • Anybody wanting to get more exercise without the exertion required of a standard bicycle.
  • Anybody that loves to bicycle but for one reason or another is no longer able to.
  • Parents wishing to keep up with their young children.
  • Anybody trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Anybody trying to reduce their transportation costs and or replace the need for a second automobile.
  • College students looking for a better way to get around but do not need or cannot afford an automobile.
  • Business or individuals needing to deliver or pick-up small goods over short distances.


Fuel cost per mile for cars is 15.0 cents compared to the cost of charging an e-bike which works out to 0.1 cents per mile.

Monthly cost to own and operate a car ranges from $600 to as much as $900 while owning and operating an E-bike is about $20. Throw in an energy bar for those long trips and we can up that another $20.

Most cars can comfortable carry an addtional 3 passengers yet 60% of all car trips in the US are done solo and 85% of all commuter car trips in the US are done solo.

Although the top speed of the typical car is at least 90mph compared to the e-bikes top speed of 25mph, the average road speed of 15 to 25mph found in most cities can easily be achieved with an e-bike.

Automobiles can go 300 miles between fill-ups while e-bikes can only go 25 miles yet 50% of all US car trips are 25 miles or less. carried six books on electric bicycles at the end of 2010. By the end of 2013 that number has grown to well over 25. Read my reviews for some of these at my book picks for 2013.

According to the consulting group eCycle Electric International the total sales for electric bikes in the US went from 70,000 units in a 12 month period ending in July 2012 to 159,000 units over that same 12 month period ending in July 2013.

Companies building and selling electric bikes in the US have grown from a handful in 2000 to more than 40 in 2013.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, bike commuting in the US grew by 47% between 2000 and 2011, and it grew an astounding 80 percent in communities designated as “bicycle friendly” by the league. A designation that Carlisle is working hard to achieve.

Both Walmart and Sears are now selling electric bikes in select stores and the US bicycle giant “Trek”, rolled out a line of electric bikes in 2010. As of 2013 BJ’s Wholesale Club carries a full line of the Yukon brand E-bike.


The mean travel time to work for Carlisle residents is 15.9 minutes which is well below both the state average of 25.7 minutes and the national average of 25.4 minutes. In addition 30.68% of residents have a commute of nine minutes or less and 37.79% of them have a commute between 10 and 19 minutes. This too is below both state and national averages by a large margin. This makes commuting by bike a viable option for many people for at least 6 months out of the year.

Carlisle added bike lanes in 2011 throughout the downtown district and is in the process of increasing the number of public bicycle racks throughout the downtown area as well as on Dickinson college campus.

More information about cycling in Carlisle can be found here.

Carlisle is in the top 1% of similar sized cities throughout the state for walking or biking to work and in the top 7% for short commute times.

There are no bicycle shops in the greater Harrisburg and Carlisle area currently selling or servicing electric bicycles. Read Why can’t I buy an e-bike in Harrisburg, PA.

The only thing worse than public transportation in Carlisle is the cab service.


Getting people out of their cars and onto their bikes is just one small part of the hundreds of challenges facing governments today. With so much on their plates and every one of them more important the next how will something as seemingly unimportant as building bicycle friendly roadways ever become a priority?The short answer is, without our help it probably won’t. Somebody once wrote “The fastest way to elicit change is to change ourselves” and that definitely applies here. We’ve all heard terms like “snowballing out of control” or “the domino effect”, “compounding interest” and “exponential growth”. Simply by deciding to take your bike to work or to the store today instead of the car we have a very good chance of influencing a few other people to do the same. Those people influence a few more and those a few more and so on until there are hundreds of people in your town doing the same thing.  If you happen to be riding an electric bike that’s all the better because I can almost promise you that someone will ask you about it. Do your part. Ride your bike & tell a friend. It’s amazing how quickly little things can add up.

What are your thoughts about getting around in the coming years?  Please post your comments, suggestions, criticisms or reply’s in the comment box below.

“The fastest way to elicit change is to change ourselves”



The following is a list of websites & recent articles on the electric bicycle’s future.

  • A Recap of Important Events from the 2013 Electric Bike Industry
  • Bike vs Car on a Hot Planet
  • Bike Shop 2012
  • A Look at the Bicycle Industry’s Vital Statistics
  • Will Electric Bicycles Get Americans to Start Pedaling?
  • Electric bikes face long road in U.S
  • On your e-bike: European craze powers into UK
  • USA E-bike Market Waking Up
  • Electric Bike Media Briefing

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Filed under: Cargo BikesElectric BicycleEnvironmentalTransportation

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