Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Do e-bikes ease traffic congestion? With a little help ...

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  • BenWilson, in reply to Stephen R,

    That was pretty much why I got the electric bike buzz back, oh, 10 years ago or so. I have a debt of gratitude to that bargain basement $300 jobby I got on TradeMe that got me back on a bike. I did about 2000km on that one then sold it, for $300. So it literally cost me the electricity required, and one tyre change, and I did get a different cog set that had a much lower first gear, which was well worth doing, IMHO. Because when the battery does die the bike becomes very bloody heavy, and pulling it up a steep hill is something you really want a good gearing ratio for in NZ.

    The other one I describe above only really got used about 10 times. I got it for $300, and sold it for $300 as well.

    In the end, I found that I had got pedal fit enough and road savvy enough, that the simplicity of the good old fashioned pushbike was all I needed, so long as I spent a bit more on it. My $700 hybrid bike has done about 5000km since then, and is still in good shape.

    To that end electrics are a good gateway bike, and I think if I was much older, I’d probably be sticking to the electric. I might revisit it again.

    Russell’s going in the reverse direction, but then he does have 5 or 6 years on me. Also, he hasn’t said he’s giving the other bike away yet. I think bike owners tend to get a stable going after a while, and use them as they see fit. I’ve got another el-cheapo bike stashed at my parents place in Herne Bay, a hipster style commuter with all the stuff you want on it so that you can ride in work clothes. I use it to get to University during the semester. So I drive and ride. Not solving the congestion problem, but doing a good job on the parking problem.

    Obviously my style of electric purchasing was not really typical of what I’d expect for a vibrant EB future. Being a tightarse with time on his hands was driving me, where people with regular paying jobs would be much better advised to just fork out a couple of grand for one from a shop that will support the bike. Their economic proposition is very different to mine, they can probably justify it easily and outright in savings on parking, taxis/ubers, and gym fees. Not to mention its just cooler to have nice gear and not look like your bike was purchased in K-Mart (which I think my one actually may originally have been), and having the support of the importer/builder of the bike is worth loads of saved headaches.

    There’s one category of EB I haven’t decently explored and may yet do so. The folding sort. That might take park-and-ride to a whole new level. Then I wouldn’t need my van to do that in. Currently my bike fits into my van, so I can drive into, say, Kingsland, park for free and then just ride the 10 mins to town. I was doing that for 2014-5.

    But a really good EB might take away any need for the car part at all. Again, my own situation leads to the hybrid solution – I’m dropping kids off at school or picking them up, hence the need for the mighty auto. But I regularly see EB commuters going past my house in New Lynn these days. Maybe 3-4 a day.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    Yeah, half of those electric bikes in Shenzhen are really moped replacements, the local government banned 2 strokes so the busy smoky mess that is the streets of Hanoi, Saigon, Taipei, etc … is clean and quiet, and look like mopeds, they also have large electric tricycle delivery guys who hang out on various corners waiting for work when you move house you rent a fleet of them.

    There are laws about power which are flouted, and there’s a general feeling that ebike riders are a bit feral, they ride on the wrong side of the road, zip backwards and forwards thru traffic, drive on the footpath, and ride without lights at night to save batteries …. The cops have been having a crackdown, confiscating tens of thousands …. they don't consider ebikes necessarily a solution to congestion

    Ebikes there are much cheaper than here 2-3000 kwai – NZ$4-600

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • mark taslov, in reply to Paul Campbell,


    With that, it’s worth keeping in mind that e-bikes were widespread before there was much in the way of congestion, In the 2000s cars were encouraged primarily to hasten economic growth while the Government were simultaneously building 1000s of kilometers of subway.


    China has experienced an explosive growth of sales of non-assisted e-bikes including scooter type, with annual sales jumping from 56,000 units in 1998 to over 21 million in 2008,[63] and reaching an estimated fleet of 120 million e-bikes in early 2010.[2][64] This boom was triggered by Chinese local governments’ efforts to restrict motorcycles in city centers to avoid traffic disruption and accidents. By late 2009 motorcycles are banned or restricted in over ninety major Chinese cities.[63] Users began replacing traditional bicycles and motorcycles and, in e-bike became an alternative to commuting by car.[2] Nevertheless, road safety concerns continue as around 2,500 e-bike related deaths were registered in 2007.[64] By late 2009 ten cities had also banned or imposed restrictions on e-bikes on the same grounds as motorcycles. Among these cities were Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha, Foshan, Changzhou, and Dongguang.[63][64]

    China is the world’s leading manufacturer of e-bikes, with 22.2 million units produced in 2009. Production is concentrated in five regions, Tianjin, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong, and Shanghai.[65] China exported 370,000 e-bikes in 2009.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    How about public e-bikes in China? I've heard that even provincial cities have installed networks of swipe card operated bikes.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    there are multiple comanies doing the public bike (not ebiuke) thing, one of the latest uses bluetooth and your phone to unlock the bike and to report its location for the next user

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Stephen R, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    How about public e-bikes in China? I’ve heard that even provincial cities have installed networks of swipe card operated bikes.

    I don't know about China, but we recently saw ranks of swipe-card operated e-bikes in Japan, in similar racks to the bike-share systems I saw in in Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Paris.

    In Japan they seem to share the footpath with pedestrians, but I never saw one going much faster than a jogging pace.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    I think the problem with public ebikes is getting them to a charger, as I understand it the public bikes in China have their electronics powered by solar cells or in-wheel generators (there’s a bunch of intrigued Shenzhen hardware hackers mentally reverse engineering them), some use your phone to unlock them and to track where they are

    Mind you some people are not happy with them ….

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Mind you some people are not happy with them ….

    Golly. The English-teaching expat who told me about swipe card e-bikes being installed in the city where he was working mentioned that they wouldn't last long in NZ. Perhaps China's catching up with us, rather than the other way around.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to BenWilson,

    Good info, Ben. I have a Makita folding bike, which I acquired in a charity auction run by my local Placemakers a year or so ago. It folds into a tidy package, to fit into a good sized car boot.
    I tend to use it now when we go away on excursions--most recently, for the film festival in Te Aroha and a toddle along the sea frontage in New Plymouth. I should ride it to the uni more regularly but I find it a little frustrating, in that the wheel dimension (20in ?) doesn't allow me to get up much speed and the range is little more than 25km.
    Blokes (especially tradies) regularly show interest in it but I do also get occasional disparaging comments from teens in passing cars. I sometimes describe the bike as a 'power tool with wheels'.
    I have had a ride on one of the Mercury EBs and it was a dream. I just wish they weren't so expensive.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think bike owners tend to get a stable going after a while, and use them as they see fit.

    True. Which is both an illustration of the relative cost of bikes (so cheap you can own more than one!), and another argument against requiring registration - many regular cyclists will either pay multiple registration fees, have unregistered bikes, or sell/dump them. Can you imagine the fun of having 5 or 10 registration plates for your family bike farm?

    The public bikes I've seen all lock to the rack when not in use, so throwing one into a river would not be a crime requiring great ingenuity on the part of the police.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Moz,

    ...another argument against requiring registration - many regular cyclists will either pay multiple registration fees, have unregistered bikes, or sell/dump them.

    I've seen this happen already, where the handy scooter as secondary transport has been traded for an e-bike to avoid having to pay two rego and WOF fees. Regarding e-bike prices, the venerable Honda Today scooter currently retails for around $2300. 12 months rego is $208.18.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

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