The E-Bike Dilemma

E-Bikes have seen a huge boom in popularity in urban areas. Economical, practical, and environmentally friendly the E-Bike could very well be the way of the future. Unfortunately, local by-laws and provincial legislation have been creating confusion and limitations. What we’re left with in the aftermath of all the politics are dangerous road conditions and a fleet of junky rides. The way of the future has not arrived here yet, and not all E-Bikes are created equal.

Toronto Police Constable Hugh Smith stated on the CBC radio show Metro Morning that the City of Toronto has passed by-laws allowing E-Bikes (electric powered bicycles with a limited maximum speed of 33 km/hr) to occupy traffic lanes. In theory you could be driving along on a single lane road in Toronto with a 50 – 80 km/hr speed limit, and be stuck crawling behind an E-Bike at 33 km/hr.

We shouldn’t be asking ourselves where on the road an E-Bike should be. Instead, we should be wondering whether or not the current crop of E-Bikes should be allowed on the road at all. We’ve all heard the common worries and complaints:

Most of the issues could be solved with better driver education and better, faster E-Bikes. Better E-Bikes are out there. German car manufacturer BMW has recently announced the development of its own E-Bike but unfortunately for Ontario, it wouldn’t comply with our Highway Traffic Act. What we’re left with are E-Bikes going for $599.

After spending thousands of dollars learning about numbers in university I graduated only to discover people don’t care much for math. Unfortunately, the damage (or education rather) can’t be undone, and my issue with E-Bikes started when I asked myself a little theoretical question:

If an E-Bike costs the buyer $599. How much does the parts and production cost?

I did a few estimations, and then a few more, and kept getting negative numbers. How could a $599 priced item, come with a snazzy battery, be shipped half way around the world, go through multiple middlemen and import fees, and still bring in a profit? The unit production costs would have to be in the teens, maybe the high $20 range, maximum.

We can ask the same of Chinese made scooters such as Benelli and Pertutti which hide behind an Italian sounding name. Please remember, if it cost as much as a date at the movies than the odds are it will only last just as long. Happy endings aren’t always guaranteed; friends don’t let friends buy dangerous vehicles.

Thank you to Cynthia K from the Toronto Moto Scooter Club for sharing the news. As always, ride safe everyone!