Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

07 Jul 2022, 15:00 p.m.

I Hadn't Understood How Cool E-bikes Are

I've recently had some opportunities to ride pedal-assist electric bicycles for some journeys within New York City. I had already known that e-bikes would make it easier to get up hills and to get to my destination faster. But I hadn't realized how some other aspects of e-bikes would make city riding more pleasant.

When I'm on a conventional bike, I'm relying on my own leg power, which I deplete every time I have to push off from a stop. This makes me want to avoid stopping, so I'm more tempted to roll through intersections when it would be safer to fully stop. On an e-bike I know that it'll only take a little force from my leg to get the bike humming forward again, so it's easier for me to stop more frequently.

Since I'm not a particularly skilled or strong cyclist, pedal-assist ebikes help me go significantly faster than I can using only leg power. I can get up from a stop to a steady clip faster on an e-bike than I can on a conventional bike. So, when a stoplight turns green, I can frequently get into the intersection before the car next to me can. If the bike lane is blocked (which it frequently is in New York City), that speed lets me maneuver into the main traffic lane before that first car, instead of having to squeeze myself between it and the car behind it.

And I can travel at a speed much more like that of the car traffic next to me, and thus can navigate unexpected situations more nimbly and smoothly. If I see a truck blocking the bike lane ahead of me, the speed of the e-bike gives me more options to temporarily merge into the main traffic lane to get around that truck, and I can spend more of my energy on scanning the environment for danger instead of frantically pedaling. Lane changes, merges, and similar maneuvers are easier when I can be part of the traffic flow.

These improvements don't just save me physical energy -- they save my mental energy, too. So much of the exhaustion of city cycling is the worry and work of a slow rodent scurrying among the big cats and trying not to get in their way. When I can't use a separated bike path, the pedal-assist gives this little rodent a bit more protection.


12 Jul 2022, 20:21 p.m.

Thanks for this writeup! I especially like the rodent-and-cats metaphor.