E-bikes: convenient transportation or safety issue?

E-BIKES have taken the nation by storm amidst the pandemic. Town of Vail

Austin Ashizawa | Student Life Editor

October 7, 2021

Zipping across the streets at the speed of light, it’s a bird… it’s a plane… or wait, it’s just an e-bike. Where once even the word “e-bike” (electric bicycle) would have prompted confusion, they are now commonplace around schools, offices, and outside of grocery stores. Despite the fact that the first recognizable models were created during the 1990s, this method of transport has only recently begun to gain traction. But what are the reasons for this craze and how has it affected society?

Just as thousands of markets around the country faced a massive decline in demand during the pandemic, so did a select few experience a substantial boom. Some examples of the latter would include services such as Uber Eats and Instacart, but sales of e-bikes also began to grow as restrictions for lockdown started to lift. 

Simply put, people were tired of remaining cooped up in their homes. Sellers of e-bikes took advantage of this perfect opportunity: advertising their product as an optimal form of transportation that was both healthy and practical on a daily commute.

“E-bikes offered a way for people, especially younger people, to get outside and get exercise,” senior Evan Gray said.

And like moths to a flame, people swarmed to buy them up as fast as they had with toilet paper in the early stages of the lockdown. 

For the most part, they really do have the potential to supply some amazing benefits. E-bikes are able to provide more physical activity than conventional cycling in addition to slightly more physical activity than walking. “I think that e-bikes, in general, provide a form of travel that is both easy and available to most people, but environmentally friendly as well,” Gray said.

And for financial reasons, “this may be the best alternative for those that are young or cannot afford a car,” senior Psi Padya said. While most motor vehicles hover around the $32,000 price range, e-bikes only cost between $600 and $2,000, making them substantially more affordable. Even used cars still cost around $20,000, making e-bikes the perfect option for students or minimum wage workers.

DOZENS OF E-BIKES wrap around the borders of the school. Austin Ashizawa

Yet because of human nature, the initial reasoning behind the purchase of e-bikes began to fade as people rationalized buying them in order to “fit in.” So instead of people who genuinely wanted to stay in shape and provide themselves with an efficient challenge throughout their daily routine, they became a way for teenagers to look cool in front of friends.

At San Clemente High School alone, rows upon rows of e-bikes line the walkways near the main office. “SCHS has been lenient with parking e-bikes and having them on campus,” Padya said. “They even have a plan to set up e-bike racks so everyone can safely park them on campus.” Unfortunately, this influx of e-bikes that have been spurred on by both students and the school has fostered a plethora of issues. 

“[An e-bike’s] speed can go well above 20 mph, and people fail to protect themselves by wearing a helmet or even knee/elbow pads,” Padya said. “It just takes the e-biker to be at the right place and the right time for there to be an accident involving a reckless driver.”

Specifically in San Clemente, with hotspots for public activity such as T-Street and the Pier, e-bike accidents are becoming more and more common. “The amount of people on e-bikes is almost getting be too much,” Gray said. “This is especially notable in San Clemente since places like the beach trail are very prone to [these] accidents.” 

As these already frequent occurrences continue to multiply, people are beginning to petition for changes that they want to see; albeit in many different ways. Some believe that there should be strict speed limit regulations on e-bikes to prevent reckless biking. Others have expressed a sentiment towards discouraging adolescents (including high school students) from using an e-bike unless it is absolutely necessary.

The potential for e-bikes remains incredibly high as an excellent method of local transportation. But it is important to deal with new developments as they exponentially boom, throwing the community into unknown territory. The road can be dangerous, but in the end, taking precautions can mean the difference between life and death.

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