Electric Bikes Are About to Go Mainstream

New York’s restrictions on electric bikes have loosened. E-bike sharing is poised to expand. Here’s what to expect before you head out for a ride.

On any given day, as many as 50,000 bicycle delivery workers sweep through the streets of New York, and according to their advocates, more than half of them are on e-bikes. The electric-assist bicycle (or e-bike) has become a vital tool in this arduous job, where a worker’s shift can last up to 10 hours, six days a week. Until very recently, however, e-bikes were actually illegal to operate in the city, often leading to stiff fines and penalties for the delivery people.Lately, however, it seems as if the city is starting to embrace them. Not only did New York recently amend its rules for e-bikes, it has also begun rolling out major new e-bike-sharing programs geared toward commuters and tourists.

It’s a bicycle with an integrated electric motor, allowing the rider greater speed with less effort. Versions of battery-operated bikes date back to the late 1800s, though they didn’t become popular until the last decade or so. Today, they’re far more common in Europe and China than in the U.S. In this country, delivery workers have so far made up the majority of users.

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