As we move towards next year’s London Mayoral Election, Boris Johnson will be outlining why he’s the man to lead the city until 2020.
There will be real pressure on all the candidates involved to address the issue of the city’s cycling infrastructure. So far this year, five cyclists have died on the roads, all due to collisions with heavy-goods vehicles.
Many believe that a city should commit to either supporting travel by bike or by car. European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen have infrastructures designed for cycling, and whilst fatalities occurred in both last year, levels are much lower than in London.
Electric bikes or ‘e-bikes’ are commonplace in cities like Berlin and Beijing, yet in the USA and the UK, they remain a relatively alien concept. Ed Benjamin, Senior Managing Director for eCycleElectric explains America’s reluctance by stating;
‘The U.S. is not a bicycle-for-transportation culture. It's a bicycle for fitness/sports/recreation culture’
If people in the USA are only interested in cycling as a way to improve their health, then the e-bike’s main advantages, that they’re faster, less strenuous and easier to park than say a scooter or a motorbike, will be lost on them.
With high-end e-bikes priced at $5,000 - cost has clearly had an impact on the lack of success in the USA and the UK too. The cost is considerably more than a yearly pass on the subway - making it an expensive option.
However, Karmic’s latest e-bike, the Koben, which will cost in the region of $1,337, will hopefully mark a change in the industry’s pricing policy. Karmic’s not the only company looking to bring affordability, its competitor, The Wave, is offering a crowdfunded bike which will retail at $999.
In an interview with Fastcoexist, Hong Quan, Karmic’s founder, states that;
‘A lot of e-bikes start with a regular bike and then you're just adding and adding until you get this big huge beast of a monster that's more akin to a motorcycle than a bicycle.’
The Koban’s designed differently. Everything is built around the battery, meaning that unnecessary parts can be easily be discarded. This lowers the weight of the bike and makes going up hills, for example, easier.
Whether the Koban can get commuters out of their cars and on to a bike is a different question. In the UK and the USA, it could be argued that infrastructural advances have to be made which improve the safety of the roads before people will even look at bikes as a better option when commuting.
If e-bikes are given the correct platform to operate efficiently however, there is no reason why people won’t start looking to them as their preferred method of travel.