“Like them or loathe them, e-bikes in all their various guises are here to stay.” BikeRadar.com, a leading cycling website, made that declaration earlier this month about bicycles that can run on electric power and people power.
Want proof? The European Cycling Union (UEC) is creating a new racing circuit for e-bikes for the 2019 season. Called the "UEC Formula E-Bike," the new classification will include both e-road and e-mountain bikes, according to Bicycling.com.
“The UEC still needs to work out the regulatory details, such as maximum speeds and what kinds of electrical assistance (pedal vs. throttle) will even be allowed,” the site reports. “Its management board says it's in talks with engineers and manufacturers to get an idea of how to best oversee this new racing category.”
"We are aware that cycling is undergoing a period of radical change and our main objective must be to reach as many fans, athletes and others that we can," UEC President Rocco Cattaneo said in a press release.
But are e-bikes really bicycles — or are they more like mopeds?
“At the federal level e-bikes are classified as motorized vehicles and are only allowed on motorized trails within federally held public lands such as Bureau of Land Management and National Forest holdings,” according to BoulderWeekly.com, which covers Boulder, Colo., where e-bikes have been embraced. “However, a recent United States Department of Agriculture decision to allow class one, no throttle, pedal assist inside California’s Mammoth Mountain ski area’s special use permit boundary is expected to open up some similar access to federal lands within Colorado’s ski areas. The USDA decision is a nod to tourism, which along with the daily commute, seems to hold plenty of promise for e-bikes.”
In a recent poll on the Sports Destination Management website, nearly 77 percent of readers said they did not think e-bikes would become a staple in U.S.-based competitive events. A little over 20 percent thought they would.
“E-bikes have the potential to democratize bikes for millions of Americans,” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told The New Yorker last summer. Transportation Alternatives is a non-profit organization striving to “reclaim” the city’s streets from automobile traffic.
The writer of that article, Thomas Beller, claimed he visited a bike shop and asked about electric bikes: “We don’t call them ‘electric,’” the salesman said. “We call it ‘pedal assist.’ ”