It’s onerous to discover something that unites Nashville, Tennessee; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Moab, Utah; and New York City. But all of these communities, and lots of others, are grappling with what to do about electrical bicycles.

No matter the place you might be in the US, ebikes are having a second. Market analysis firm NPD says ebike gross sales grew 240 % in the 12 months ended July 2021, surpassing gross sales of conventional highway bikes. It was the second yr in a row that ebike gross sales had no less than doubled.

Experts attribute the surge to the pandemic, which left locked-down Americans hungering for brand new and Covid-safe methods to get out of the home and train. Ebike fashions geared towards households and new riders have seen special success, although there’s additionally a burgeoning neighborhood of e-mountain bikers. The shift has heartened advocates of energetic transportation, who consider that ebikes—even more than electric vehicles—can assist scale back emissions from transportation and combat climate change. Meanwhile, bike-share firms Motivate and BCycle have added pedal-assist ebikes, which use small motors to give riders boosts, to their programs.

In Nashville, the relaunch final summer time of the native BCycle bike-share system as all-electric sparked debate about what types of autos ought to find a way to journey the place. The controversy has targeted on the town’s greenways, a system of linear parks and trails that stretch practically 100 miles all through the town. Tennessee legislation permits ebikes touring under 28 mph to function in most locations, however native jurisdictions can create their very own guidelines. “Motorized vehicles” have lengthy been banned from the greenways—although ebike riders say enforcement has been scant. Some Nashvillians are additionally haunted by recollections of the scooter-share firms that blanketed streets in 2018 with out first looking for permission. For these individuals, ebikes can really feel like one other company, tech-driven trick. “There’s some post-traumatic stress syndrome, as a city,” says Bob Mendes, a member of the Metro Council.

Sales of ebikes have greater than doubled every of the previous two years.

Photograph: Irfan Khan/Getty Images

So final summer time, the council handed a decision directing metropolis companies to examine whether or not new guidelines are wanted. A report is due in weeks, says Cindy Harrison, director of the greenways and open house division of the town’s Parks Department.

As in many different locations throughout the nation, ebikes’ new reputation in Nashville has pitted standard cyclists in opposition to commuters in opposition to canine walkers in opposition to leisure exercisers for house on the restricted clean pathways the place automobiles are banned. “This is a car-heavy town that’s been trying to fight from behind for years,” says Mendes, who’s owned an ebike since 2018. Banning ebikes from the greenways, he says, will limit the place riders can safely journey.

But Kathleen Murphy, one other council member, says she’s heard from constituents—typically walkers—who fear about ebikes’ speeds. “With the ebike, you don’t hear it coming up from behind,” she says. “They’re faster and heavier, and that really concerned people.”

The debate has divided conventional allies in the combat for car-free areas. The nonprofit Greenways for Nashville has urged warning and argued that greenways aren’t actually meant to be a part of a metropolis biking—or transportation—community. “It’s like you’re mushing a sidewalk and a bike lane together,” Amy Crownover, the group’s govt director, says of the plan to permit ebikes on the greenways. But Walk Bike Nashville, an advocacy group pushing for various modes of transportation, desires to let ebikes experience. Its govt director, Lindsey Ganson, has urged locals to take into consideration greenways as not solely areas for leisure strolling or biking, however as greener transportation routes.

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