Another Wellingtonian gets an electric bike

26 03 2010

On Guim’s Electric Bicycle World Tour Blog (he’s still in New Zealand) there is a short piece on Wellingtonian, Craig Killey, whose current job is writing a separate standard for power assisted cycles for Standards New Zealand.

It is encouraging, because he tried out an electric bike as part of his investigations and now he is hooked on them. This bodes well. Someone in the public service who is going to help make the laws and he’s going to understand the technology when he does so. Brilliant!! That is the way the world should work.

In one of my longer posts I wax lyrical about what I think power assisted cycle standards should be. Craig, I hope you’ve come up with similar conclusions.

Here are the relevant parts from my post:

Allowable pedal assist
One of the joys of using a cycle path is being out of the noise cone of traffic. This tranquility is ruined by 2 stroke engines, or any petrol engine, not to mention the breathing of filthy exhaust. So all forms of assistance to pedal power should be provided by electric motors. ie all 2 stroke and 4 stroke engine assists should be banned from classification as a bike. Preferably they are banned outright, but at the very least they should be classified as mopeds or motorcycles and kept out of bike paths and bike lanes.

All pedal electric bicycles need pedals, except for the special case of bikes for the disabled and infirm. Segways and the like would breach that, but Segways have failed in the marketplace and need not be considered.

Max Speed
There should be no maximum speed defined for an electric bike. Maximum speeds as signposted for other vehicles may or may not be enforced as per local custom. If there is to be a maximum speed defined then it should be reasonable. 25km/hr is way too slow. 30 km/hr is also too slow. Regular (ie non electric) road bike users can routinely go 40km/hr. Some cyclists going downhill easily go past 50km/hr. Recumbent trikes are inherently more stable than bicycles and the speeds are both faster and safer than a normal bike. So if maximum speeds are set they should be set at different levels for bikes, trikes and velomobiles.  Any speed restriction for cutting out the electric motor relies on some way to assess the current speed which adds to the expense of the bike. It is better to limit the bike by its maximum power, rather than it’s maximum speed.

Max Power
200W and 300W does not give much speed advantage over regular cycling. California probably has the most liberal practical law here, and it limits the max power to 1000W. I don’t know if that is for one motor, or it is possible to have that on each of two motors. I would tend to suggest whatever makes a normal rider go at about 40km/hr is about right. Good riders could exceed that. More should be allowed for recumbent trikes due to their stability. Youths’ pedelecs should have a max power of whatever takes them up to about 30 km/hr.

Power Assistance
Power to the motors driving the wheels should not be limited to when the pedals are turning. When braking power to the motors should be removed. Regenerative braking is optional. Some form of charging the batteries when rolling down hills is also optional. Power should not be removed from the motor when a maximum speed is reached.

Licensing
Bicycles in all forms should not require licensing, nor registration. Kids, youths and adults should be exposed to safety education campaigns, but there should be nothing formalised to stop the spur of the moment freedom to ride.

Where pedal electrics can be ridden and taken
Everywhere that a normal bicycle can be ridden, including bike paths and bike lanes, and on the road two abreast, including velomobiles. There is no reason why off road bicycle paths should be shut to pedal electrics like in Boulder, Colorado (which sounds like it had one of the lycra brigade be a bit snobby about pedelecs). On trains that carry bikes, there is no reason to disallow pedelec bikes (but trikes and velomobiles are another story).

Max weight
30kg for bikes, 40kg for recumbants and velomobiles. This rules out lots of heavy sealed lead acid batteries, but that is probably a good thing.

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Is it fair that cyclists are subsidising motorists?

23 03 2010

In New Zealand and in Australia if you buy $30 worth of groceries or more at the supermarket you get a voucher for 4 or 5 cents a litre off the price of petrol. This amounts to three or so dollars off on a 50 litre tank of fuel. So presumably food prices are up to 10% more than they have to be to cross-subsidise the vouchers. If you go to the shops in your car and spend your $30 you get a voucher, and if you go by bike and put your $30 of  groceries into your panniers you also get a voucher, but fat lot of good it will do you. So everyone is paying more to make it cheaper for motorists to buy petrol, which of course only encourages motoring and more fuel use.

I think I’d much rather cheaper cheese than cheaper petrol, but with all those lots of 4 cents I save I can buy me a shiny new machine that runs on lies and gasoline.

C’mon New World, Pak N ‘Save, Coles and bloody Woolworths, stop colluding with Shell and BP and Exxon Mobil. Motorists should pay for their own bloody petrol. It’s not bloody ethical to make cyclists, and pedestrians and old ladies on the bus subsidise motorists’ excesses. And neither is charging $12 for a half kilo of mozzarella. Drop your prices and drop the scheme.

In other news: If you have a WordPress blog you’ll already know that you can see what people put into search engines to find your site. Well I just got ‘”bikes should keep off the streets of wellington”, and if that person comes back for another look, I’d just like to say that that person should be drowned in the Cuba Mall Bucket Fountain, whilst being whipped by the Zephyrometer. The SH1 is that way mate, and don’t come back.





Media round-up – Two convictions quashed

5 03 2010

It is with a wry smile that I note that Sue Abbott of Scone, NSW has had her conviction quashed for riding her bike without a helmet whilst Nick Lowe of Johnsonville, NZ has had his conviction quashed for riding his bike without his underpants.

Congratulations to them both. May we long see Sue and her exuberant curls flowing freely in the wind, and may we not see the same of Nick.

In other news I like this press release from the Greens of Aotearoa. Lower Speed Limits Mean Fewer Fatalities. It’s about reducing urban speed limits to 30km/hr and making it law for the 1.5m closest passing distance.

And how about this for sugar coating bad news?  Bay Rail line could end up as cycleway. More like they close the rail  line and then there isn’t a cycleway built for 50 years.





Custodial sentence for cyclist killer

3 02 2010

While it is good to see a custodial sentence for the woman who drunkenly ran over Frank Van Kampen it does seem incredibly lenient  at 2 years 2 months, considering the old soak’s 3 previous drink driving convictions. On the radio tonight there was a discussion on why wasn’t she charged with manslaughter, which is a very good question considering her culpability.

Read about it on Stuff: Drunk Grandma Jailed for Man’s Death

She also got an 8 year driving ban, which is manifestly inadequate. Hopefully she’ll never drive again. And she was ordered to pay $30,000 reparation, which in terms she’ll understand is about 1000 bottles of vodka or whisky.

I feel the least we can do for the memory of Frank is to build a safe away-from-the-highway cycle route between Waikanae and Otaki so that another family isn’t tragically put in the same situation as his.

School went back this week and it was a nice day to ride today.

C’mon Act and National, if there was a 3 strikes rule for drink driving, resulting in a lifetime driving ban, we’d all be safer as cyclists and pedestrians.

Update : Another news story from today. One of her “supporters” said “I know she did not choose to go out there and cause this accident.” Umm, yes she bloody well did. She is culpable. It was her fault. She could have prevented it. She chose not to. It was not a bloody “accident”. She may have problems of her own, but her behaviour was completely criminal and resulted in the needless death of an innocent man. It was inexcusable. If she can do anything to help, it will be to act as a deterrent to other would be drink-drivers by going to prison. The roads are dangerous enough without having to worry about being killed by a drunk driver.





Worldwide uniform laws for pedal electric technology.

11 01 2010

OK, this is one of my stranger blog posts, and I want lots of feedback on this, because I think these are good ideas.

I had an idea once which I shared on my hardly every read blog “The Great Distraction” and it is a half reasonable idea, but one I don’t have the energy to pursue. It was about replacing our current broken systems of so-called “democracy” with a system based on Bugzilla, where instead of using it for software development we, the people of the world, write legislation. And the end result is that we end up with uniform laws across multiple jurisdictions with best practice to enable technology not to be hampered by stupid legislative obstacles. For instance I wouldn’t even be able to ride my beautiful bicycle in New York State according to the wikipedia page on bicycle laws.

The laws are all over the place. Maximum power of a bike could be 200W, or 250W, 300W, 500W, 1000W or 1 hp. Maximum speed is 25km/hr, or 30km/hr, or 10mph or 35mph. Some don’t have maximum speeds. Some places need you to be pedalling for the motor to kick in, and turn off when you’re not. Some have a maximum weight, and some need engine sizes of no more than 50cc. Some call them bicycles, others motorised bicycles, some motorcycles, some mopeds. It needs standardisation, to enable manufacturers to target more than one market, and aid in mass production, and to let pedal electric bikes, trikes and velomobiles take over the world.

Now here’s another thought, remember back to the olden days of 2009 when the world went to Copenhagen not to ride bicycles, but to pontificate and ultimately achieve nothing about decarbonising our economy. This might jog your memory:

There was a bit of excitement in New Zealand at the time (well to be honest it was probably limited to within the Beehive, the NZ parliament, the building in the middle of this piccie):

Excitement because in one of the side deals, an apparently important conference was set up for Wellington in the not too distant future to talk about agricultural research groups in various countries linking up their research on climate and agriculture. You know cows’ farts and what not. I thought at the time it was a good enough idea, but how come there isn’t international research cooperation into what is really sorely needed in the 21st century to combat climate change, urban transport? There’s so little research done anyways and there is hardly any international cooperation. There should be university departments all about de-automobiling our cities, and replacing cars with bicycles. I had the thought that there should be a global conference for the world’s transport ministers to attend, where not only do they get to learn about bicycle technology and bicycle infrastructure, but they get to try out all the bikes. So I think I’m going to do it. I have no authority to do it, but I am going to invite the world not to Wellington (as it’s too boring) but to Palmerston North (Remember Palmerston North is cool) . In February 2012. Some diplomats and transport ministry people I’m sure will fill out the details of the conference and invite all the invitees. It’ll be the world’s transport ministers, and all the manufacturers of electric bikes and trikes and the like, a smattering of world leaders and lots and lots of cyclists. Here’s a picture of Palmie on a not too sunny day.

There will be a few different things scheduled for the Feb 2012 conference:

1. The New Zealand Prime Minister will formally open the New Zealand National Cycleway from Cape Reinga to Bluff, which will be freshly finished.

2. The standardised laws for pedal electric technologies will be debated and ratified and then taken back to every state, provincial and national parliament for adoption into local laws. (Really they’re just going to copy my ideas as modified by all the comments that this post is going to bring). Manufacturers will have models available that meet the standards for all the delegates to see how cool it is.

3. There’ll be a similar kind of process, not for standardised laws of bicycle infrastructure, but to develop guidelines (or a pattern language if you like) for pedal and pedal electric infrastructure that can be taken back and given to every urban planner and highway planner in the world.

4. A huge fair of pedal electric and related technologies with manufacturers from around the world invited with lots of room for everyone to ride around on the bikes and trikes on show.

Initial ideas for global uniform bicycle laws

Definitions
A child/children
– different places have different definitions on when a person is old enough to ride an electric bike, 10, 14, 16, 18 and even 21. I cannot understand why a teenager shouldn’t be riding on an e-bike. Even a 10 year old could ride an electric bike safely. Small children of course can hardly ride real bikes, but if a kid is big enough for a 10-speed (I’m old school) then they are big enough for an e-bike. Many places let kids up to a certain age, like 12 ride on the footpath. So I’m going to pick an arbitary number and say children are up to 12 years old.

Youth – 13 to 17. Prone to more accidents from little experience of riding on the road.

Adult – 18+

Bike Paths – Bike Lanes

Bike paths are dedicated paths away from roads (but may parallel them) where there is no risk of being hit by any motorised traffic losing control on any road. Bike paths may be used by pedestrians.

Bike lanes are marked lanes on the same road surface as a road carrying vehicular traffic. Bike lanes may not be used by pedestrians, other than to cross at 90 degrees from the direction of road traffic.

Helmets
There are times when helmets are not needed when riding a bicycle. They discourage cycling, and their safety claims are at best dubious. One place they’re not needed is in the city and suburbs. This is especially true for city-wide cycle hire schemes. Sometimes there is a need for a helmet. I know I’ll be shot down in flames for this, but here goes:

Children should wear a helmet when riding a bike.
Youths should wear helmets when riding a bike of any kind, except for city-wide hire schemes.
Adults should have the choice to wear a helmet on any pedal bike that they won’t ride faster than 30km/hr. All pedal electrics require a helmet.

All helmets to be worn when riding a bike, or trike or velomobile are the bicyclist style with a chinstrap, not the full face motorcyclist style.

Allowable pedal assist
One of the joys of using a cycle path is being out of the noise cone of traffic. This tranquility is ruined by 2 stroke engines, or any petrol engine, not to mention the breathing of filthy exhaust. So all forms of assistance to pedal power should be provided by electric motors. ie all 2 stroke and 4 stroke engine assists should be banned from classification as a bike. Preferably they are banned outright, but at the very least they should be classifed as mopeds or motorcycles and kept out of bike paths and bike lanes.

All pedal electric bicycles need pedals, except for the special case of bikes for the disabled and infirm. Segways and the like would breach that, but Segways have failed in the marketplace and need not be considered.

Max Speed
There should be no maximum speed defined for an electric bike. Maximum speeds as signposted for other vehicles may or may not be enforced as per local custom. If there is to be a maximum speed defined then it should be reasonable. 25km/hr is way too slow. 30 km/hr is also too slow. Regular (ie non electric) road bike users can routinely go 40km/hr. Some cyclists going downhill easily go past 50km/hr. Recumbant trikes are inherently more stable than bicycles and the speeds are both faster and safer than a normal bike. So if maximum speeds are set they should be set at different levels for bikes, trikes and velomobiles.  Any speed restriction for cutting out the electric motor relies on some way to assess the current speed which adds to the expense of the bike. It is better to limit the bike by its maximum power, rather than it’s maximum speed.

Max Power
200W and 300W does not give much speed advantage over regular cycling. California probably has the most liberal practical law here, and it limits the max power to 1000W. I don’t know if that is for one motor, or it is possible to have that on each of two motors. I would tend to suggest whatever makes a normal rider go at about 40km/hr is about right. Good riders could exceed that. More should be allowed for recumbent trikes due to their stability. Youths pedelecs should have a max power of whatever takes them up to about 30 km/hr.

Power Assistance
Power to the motors driving the wheels should not be limited to when the pedals are turning. When braking power to the motors should be removed. Regenerative braking is optional. Some form of charging the batteries when rolling down hills is also optional. Power should not be removed from the motor when a maximum speed is reached.

Licensing
Bicycles in all forms should not require licensing, nor registration. Kids, youths and adults should be exposed to safety education campaigns, but there should be nothing formalised to stop the spur of the moment freedom to ride.

Where pedal electrics can be ridden and taken
Everywhere that a normal bicycle can be ridden, including bike paths and bike lanes, and on the road two abreast, including velomobiles. There is no reason why off road bicycle paths should be shut to pedal electrics like in Boulder, Colorado (which sounds like it had one of the lycra brigade be a bit snobby about pedelecs). On trains that carry bikes, there is no reason to disallow pedelec bikes (but trikes and velomboiles are another story).

Max weight
30kg for bikes, 40kg for recumbants and velomobiles. This rules out lots of heavy sealed lead acid batteries, but that is probably a good thing.

Anyway that’s my view of the world. What would you do differently?





I wanna ride a velomobile

13 12 2009

I saw my first velomobile on the streets of Wellington on Friday evening. They are very, very cool.

2 youtube links follow:

Here are 4 mangoes being ridden on a Dutch rural cycleway.

This guy from Ohio has built his own and added an electric motor

There’s a company in Toronto called  BlueVelo that will sell you a velomobile with an e-kit that has regenerative braking and a 500W motor, street legal as a bicycle in Canada (not NZ or Australia though) for a cool CDN$8000.

The future is going to have the 1930s art deco vision of the future after all. And I reckon one of these enclosed recumbents could also float as a boat. George Jetson thinking caps on everybody.

I’m quite enamored to the Wisper Sports Pedal Electric bikes. I definitely see the use of pedal electrics as part of the getting more people on bikes equation, along with better bike infrastructure. But maybe the all-weather aspect of an enclosed velomobile is the way to go in a town with dud weather like Wellington. If only they were cheaper. They are definitely faster than a normal bike. 40km/hr on flat terrain without the electric assist. Maybe with electric assist they can go 50 or 60 km/hr and have turn signals and brake lights and headlights (and radios) like cars, but still at their heart be bicycles. Even under electric power these things have the equivalent mileage of greater than 1000 mpg. So they don’t cost the Earth or $60 a week in petrol. If they are fully lockable they’d maybe not be stolen and if they have a roll bar behind the head, they’d be quite safe too. Yet they would still be legal bicycles (with only a small increase in the power allowed from 300W to 500W).

Stuff your hybrid cars and their 1200kg+ bodies. The future involves electric assist velomobiles.





8 years + and the NZTA have made a decision, nearly

18 11 2009

As seen in the Dominion Post today an article about Taupo cops on Segways and how they’re not legal on roads or footpaths so the Taupo cops will only ride them on grass verges and in parks. I can remember getting excited about Segways when they were first introduced in 2001, or maybe even 2000. The excitement soon faded when I saw the prices which haven’t come down one bit. The NZTA hasn’t quite made a decision yet on how to classify a Segway. Well done NZTA. 8 years and counting.

There are a plethora of ways of conveyancing oneself, but I want to make it simple for them, so I’ll classify things into 3 categories.

1. Things that can be aligned with walking – ie walking, jogging, electric old-timers scooters, Segways, scooters, skateboards and kids under 12 on bikes. These are the only ones who can use footpaths, unless it is signposted for bicycles too. When there are no footpaths then they can go on the road. ie country roads and backstreets without footpaths. On busy roads it’s called jaywalking.

2. Bikes, including pedal electric bicycles, but not bicycles with any form of combustion engine. Something that can be powered by the legs or by the legs and a supplementary electric motor. If someone puts a 2-stroke on a push bike it should be classed as a motorcycle. If someone puts an electric motor on a push bike it should be a bicycle. Mopeds definitely should not go in this category, as you can’t power them with your legs. Same with skateboards – combustion engines and get off the bikeways, please. Electric engine on a skateboard, and you’re welcome on the cycleway. In NZ the motor size maximum is 300W. In Australia it is only 250 Watts. Canada’s is 500W. A horsepower, from memory, is 768 W. The maximum should be either 500W or 768W. This category shouldn’t be defined by a top speed, as a good pedal cyclist can reach over 40km/hr on the flat.

Bikes get to go on cycleways and all roads, except Motorways, and under 12s get to ride on the footpaths.

3. Anything heavier or with a combustion engine. Cars, trucks, mopeds, motorcycles, buses go on the road and definitely never on a footpath and never on a cycleway.

I can do in 5 minutes what the NZTA can’t do in 8 years. It wasn’t hard.