Loopholes for non-street legal e-bikes and a lack of safe cycleways threaten to take the shine off an otherwise booming industry
Tue 5 Nov 2019 21.00 GMT
Jimmy Couling, from Melbourne store Velo Cycles, rides an e-bike with Stef De Stefano on the back. Photograph: Annette Ruzicka/The Guardian
Maurice Wells was convinced the time was right to start a business when a DIY electric-bike project helped his mother take up cycling again.
A solar energy engineer and community bike club organiser, Wells had spent years trying to get more people to ride. When he gave a prototype electric bike to his mother, he says, she began riding to work again immediately, having not ridden for more than 10 years.
“It was just so obvious that the electric bike was going to help a lot more people overcome the barriers they were facing to riding,” Wells says.
Ten years later, electric bike sales in Australia are experiencing “phenomenal growth”, according to Nathan Reizer, who set up his shop Melbourne Electric Bicycles three years after Wells established Glow Worm Bikes in Sydney.
The number of electric bikes imported to Australia has tripled over the past three years and sales are growing faster than any other segment of the Australian bike market, with more than 50 brands offering a range of models, according to Peter Bourke, general manager of Bicycle Industries Australia.
Proponents say e-bikes can help more people get exercise, ease traffic congestion and reduce vehicle emissions.
But the Australian market is still a long way behind Europe, and experts say a severe lack of adequate bicycle infrastructure and outdated regulations are stifling the growth of the e-bike industry and putting lives at risk.
Wells’s mother is indicative of a growing number of cyclists who previously would not have had the confidence to get on a bike but now make it a regular part of their week thanks to the electric boost.
But a lack of safe cycleways is holding many others back, and leaving those on the roads – especially inexperienced cyclists – in dangerous situations, Bourke says.
“We need better bike infrastructure – there are no ifs, buts or maybes on that,” he says. “We need to complete the [cycling] networks and we need to fill the gaps.”
E-bikes surge in popularity in Australian cities but experts warn of risks – The Guardian
Loopholes for non-street legal e-bikes and a lack of safe cycleways threaten to take the shine off an otherwise booming industry Else Kennedy Tue 5 Nov 2019 21.00 GMT Jimmy Couling, from Melbourne store Velo Cycles, rides an e-bike with Stef De Stefano on the back. Photograph: Annette Ruzicka/The Guardian Maurice Wells was convinced the… [Read More]