The Electric-Bike Conundrum

The New Yorker
By Thomas Beller

It was nighttime, a soft summer night, and I was standing on Eighty-second Street and Second Avenue, in Manhattan, with my wife and another couple. We were in the midst of saying goodbye on the small island between the bike lane and the avenue when a bike whooshed by, soundless and very fast. I had been back in New York for only a week. As is always the case when I arrive after a period of months away, I was tuned to any change in the city’s ambient hum. When that bike flew past, I felt a shift in the familiar rhythm of the city as I had known it. I watched the guy as he travelled on the green bike path. He was speeding down the hill, but he wasn’t pedalling and showed no sign of exertion.

For a moment, the disjunction between effort and velocity confused me. Then it dawned on me that he was riding an electric bike.

Like most of the guys you see with electric bikes in New York, he was a food-delivery guy. Their electric bikes tend to have giant batteries, capable of tremendous torque and horsepower. They are the vanguard, the visible part of the iceberg, but they are not indicative of what is to come…

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The Electric-Bike Conundrum
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