Our electric-assist bike definitely gets more attention than our regular bikes. A number of people have asked "is that an electric bike?" or the like, but the best (when I rode past them up a hill) was "what is that?". Most of the people who have asked about it are bike people of some sort, whether recreational or commuters. They're probably not the ones who would buy an electric bike for themselves, but they definitely recognized the benefits of it.
There's apparently some controversy over it, some 'snobbery' if you will, from regular cyclists, as evidenced in the article "Is my electric bike lame?" over on TreeHugger. But a reader of my first post about our bike pointed me to a study that suggests an electric bike is actually more energy efficient than a regular bike (PDF), unless you eat locally and low on the food chain, and your electricity is particularly un-green (e.g., coal.) To me, it's a no-brainer: every trip my wife or I take on the e-bike that would have been in a car (even our Prius) is a win, whether or not it's more efficient than a regular bike.
Our electric bike is from Pacific E-Bike in Berkeley. It cost $897 plus tax, which is considerably cheaper than a car. It's heavier than a regular mountain bike, more like a cruiser bike. But it's not so heavy I can't ride up a hill without the motor. I do notice the extra weight when I lift the bike up for stairs at BART or the like, but it's manageable. The range varies depending on how much you pedal, the hills involved, etc. I've ridden it to and from the Habitat building site, which is a 20 mile round trip, with 1000+ feet of climbing (mostly at the end, alas). I've ridden it to and from the grocery store, returning with a 12-pack of beer (a local Bay Area brew, of course) and two panniers full of groceries.
Is it lame? Not in my book. As I said in my first post, I used to ride more and was in better shape 10 years ago. But even then, I never rode my bike to the grocery store, and it was rare that I rode it as far as to the Habitat site and back. It's gotten my wife riding more. And every trip on the e-bike is one less car trip, and that's a win.
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