Too Much Work? Consider the Magic of Electric Bicycles

BY STEVE DINNEN

Electric bicycles – e-bikes – are a great way to exercise, giving you a boost of mechanical power to make that uphill climb and keep up with the rest of the crowd. For older riders they’ve been especially welcomed; Des Moines biker Bob Netteland says his e-bike helps overcome the fatigue of osteoarthritis.

But not everyone embraces them. The National Park Service, for instance. Or the Bureau of Land Management. Neither government agency will permit them to be operated on land they control.

Emma Wimmer, with the Adventure Cycling Association, says her group has had to notify riders signed up for trips it offers in Idaho and along the C&O Canal near Washington, D.C., that e-bikes are barred.

The problem stems from regulatory oversight and the speed of e-bikes. New York, for instance, views them as motorized vehicles that require licensing. And some souped-up versions can reach 50 mph!

Iowa has no problems with e-bikes. Matt Winter, at Bike World in Urbandale, says the versions he sells have maximum speeds of 20 or 28 mph. And there is no throttle on those bikes – their electric motor is only activated by the rider’s pedaling.

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