Battery-powered bicycles provide gas-free transportation


Campus commuters looking for a gas-free and sweat-free way to get around need look no further.

Electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, have been selling out at Dinkytown’s Varsity Bike and Transit ever since their introduction to the store this summer.

Even so, e-bikes have a long way to go before they catch on with the student population.

Rob DeHoff, owner and manager of Varsity, said there’s only been one student who’s bought an e-bike from Varsity, indicating that most students aren’t completely sold on them yet.

Dance senior Luke Melsha said he doesn’t want one because they’re expensive — generally anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 a pop — and he would prefer to get exercise on a regular bike.

Like standard bicycles, e-bikes have fully functional pedals. The main difference is the motor, which riders can use if they desire, and can propel the rider at speeds up to 20 mph.

The propulsion can either assist manual pedaling or throttle the rider forward with no pedaling necessary.

E-bikes run on a battery, so they need to be charged. Each charge should get between 20 and 40 miles, depending on factors like road terrain and rider weight.

Still, DeHoff said they’re “more of a tool than a toy,” and that people who buy them did so to depend less on cars.

DeHoff said more people are searching for a cheaper alternative to cars, especially with rising gas prices.

“We’ve only been selling them for three months, but we’ve been servicing them for over three years,” DeHoff said while he was hauling in the store’s newest order of electric bicycles. “We hate turning down any bike repairs.”

Many Twin Cities bicycle shops have been getting more calls asking about electric bicycles, but only some are considering ordering them.

The West Bank’s Hub bicycle co-operative will be ordering electric bicycles for next spring, with a few demonstration bicycles available this winter.

Nationwide retailers Wal-Mart and Target are also starting to sell the bicycles on their websites.

However, other local shops, like The Alt in south Minneapolis , said they don’t have the kind of manpower needed to service e-bikes, so they won’t be ordering them.

University police Lt. Troy Buhta said the same laws apply to e-bikes that apply to mopeds and other motorized vehicles.

Bicyclists have to carry a valid driver’s license and be at least 16 years old to ride one. Buhta said they should expect to adhere to the same “rules of the road” as normal bicyclists.

Spanish studies sophomore Lis Lawrence said she’s seen some people riding around the campus on electric bicycles, but she likes her own bicycle because it’s easy to transport.

“I saw one guy riding one,” Lawrence said. “It was loud and obnoxious, and he kept cutting people off.”