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Sierra Daily

Jun 13, 2011

Renegade Electric Bikes

Others43 Today's New York Times brings word of the biggest thing to hit the Chinese takeout business in New York since badly printed menu flyers: the electric bicycle.

The battery-powered bikes — which can travel faster than a pedal-powered bike and, let’s not forget, don’t need to be pedaled — are revolutionizing the trade of delivering Chinese food in Manhattan by extending the range for restaurants and speeding up the service.

The bikes have brought a small measure of ease to a profession that is virtually cornered by poor Chinese immigrants.

One small hitch, however: They're illegal, because many of them do not meet federal motor vehicle standards. The New York legislature is now considering a bill that would leagalize bikes with top speeds of 20 m.p.h. and that use less than 7,500 watts. (The feds already consider ebikes with top speeds of 20 m.p.h. or less to be bicycles rather than motorcycles.) Meanwhile, however, workers at takeout restaurants who earn below minimum wage are being fined $65 for using them on New York streets.

Never ridden an ebike? Neither had Sierra contributor Lynn Rapoport--until we put her up to it. Read what happens when a cycling purist meets the "cheatercycle."

--Paul Rauber

Image: EV-Global E-Bike LE

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