E-Bikes. Your views needed:The Cambridge Community Development Department (CDD) has contacted an occupational therapist Ph.D. candidate and fitness worker to undertake a survey of Cambridge residents with regard to e-bike interest. We hope you will take this 5-minute survey. Here is the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ebike22. Why is this important? Because, it seems, the City (CDD) may want to use the outcomes, as noted on the survey itself “…to see if e-bikes are a viable alternative to using cars for transportation needs.” (see language in accompanying letter below). Seriously? And, to make matters worse, this is not a viable survey format but instead a “puff piece” seemingly intended to convince you of why e-bikes are so important as an alternative to other vehicles here. The tone is: Wouldn’t you like to just try one? If not, why not? The normative answer is framed is “yes!” With enough “yes” votes in the survey conceivably this could be used to justify removing more parking along our streets and equally bad, not to require commercial or residential developers to create parking for new projects even if they are bringing hundreds of new people into the city. Note: the city is NOT looking to add more public transport, and that is a key problem.
There are a number of positive things about e-bikes and while e-bike popularity has grown in recent years, particularly among the 30–40-year-old group, there are a number of problems not addressed in the survey with respect to e-bikes that are important to signal (largely left out of the city’s survey). In addition to price, there is the battery (short lifespan and long charging time), low distances traveled before one needs to charge the battery, bike weight, costliness of repairs/maintenance, low resale value, and relatively little positive environmental benefits. See HERE. . In addition, with more e-bikes in play, pedal bicyclists and e-bike users are likely to themselves have problems competing for space in the City’s new bike lanes. And since no one is required to be licensed or to wear helmets or to carry insurance we will see even more frustration than we are seeing now.
Equally importantly e-bikes are sometimes unsafe, increase congestion, and indirectly pollute the environment through increased power plant emissions, batteries etc.). Moreover, simply replacing cars with e-bikes is not enough to impact climate change to any sizable degree: see HERE. As to e-bike weight -this can run from 32-70 lbs. (with most weighing over 50 pounds). It is hard to see many people able to haul one up a three-story height to the top floor of a triple decker.
The biggest problems, however, remains safety.
E-bikes can go 28 MPH (faster than cars are allowed to travel on Cambridge city streets) and e-bikes have posed serious safety challenges. Indeed 17 e-bike riders were killed in NYC in 2021 and 3 pedestrians were killed by 3-bike riders, according to a October 12, 2021 New York Times article. And this does not include broken limbs, internal injuries, and other health issues. Indeed e-bike riders were far more likely to be hospitalized after accidents than either those riding scooters or traditional bike riders (2021 legal notice). Even bicycle safety advocates note that
Conclusions: While 7% of Cambridge residents currently ride bikes to work (with the numbers in some neighborhood far surpassing those in others (Harvard Square vs Fresh Pond for example) and while 25% of Cambridge residents already walk to work, promoting E-bike acquisition and use by the City does not seem wise, particularly when a survey such as this one seems to be encouraging people to take up e-biking without pointing out the serious health and other risk down sides. It seems in this light somewhat strange that the occupational therapist intern who put this “survey” together does not point out the injury down sides, because it is the OT group who is involved in much of the rehabilitation work for e-bike accidents and others.
While CCC has not been in the bike lane discussions for the most part, pedal bikes are very different from e-bikes. If the City thinks that the “hum” of a motor is going to convince residents to sell their cars (to use an e-bike (if they are not already using pedal bikes) should be encouraged to think more thoughtfully about this.
Please fill out the above survey – and be frank about what your and our transportation needs really are.