How fast do EBikes go?


eBike ride: oriental parade
eBike riders obey the speed limit on Oriental Bay

Electric assist bikes (eBikes) are a great way to get into biking if you’re not confident about your physical abilities, or if, like me, riding a standard bike up Wellington’s hills has become frustrating. But some people are worried about how fast eBikes go, and feel that they will pose a danger to riders of standard bikes. So how much faster are eBikes than standard bikes? The answer seems to be “not much”.

First, what does the published research say? The German Naturalistic Cycling Study (2017) found that eBike riders averaged only 2km/hr faster than people on standard bikes. Langford, Chen and Cherry (2015) found that eBikes averaged faster on roads (21km/hr vs 17km/hr) but slower on shared paths (18km/hr vs 20km/hr). Note that this was in the US, where eBikes are allowed to have more powerful motors. This study demonstrates that while eBike riders potentially have more speed, in places like shared paths they may choose not to use it. They also found that people had similar safety behaviours, whether they were riding eBikes or standard bikes.

Next, I decided to see what happens in NZ. I spent a few hours on Wellington commuter routes, timing eBikes and standard bikes over about 100m, generally using lighting poles as markers. I found that eBikes averaged 26km/hr, standard bikes 23.4 km/hr, a difference of 2.6km/hr. This was a small study (9 eBikes, 55 standard bikes) with a crude method for measuring speed, but seemed to indicate that eBikes fell in the same range of speeds that standard bikes do. The fastest bike was a standard bike, and the slowest an eBike.

It would be good to get a bigger sample, but I was getting tired waiting for the occasional eBike – although they’re becoming more common, I still had to wait a while between eBikes, and sometimes I’d fail to recognise them in time.

So I turned to Strava, where keen people with GPS smartphones can record their activity when biking, running, and even hand cycling. Strava has an Activity Search which although a bit erratic in its searching, allowed me to compare ordinary bike rides (“rides”) with “E-Bike rides” that had been recorded in NZ. Strava gives a lot of data about each ride (I was tempted to compare the total calorie intake of eBike and standard riders!), but I used the average speed and the maximum speed, and searched for rides recorded in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. I used 132 eBike rides, and 145 standard bike rides.

On average, eBikes had an average speed 2km/hr slower than standard bikes (20.7km/hr vs 22.7km/hr). The average maximum speed for a ride was pretty similar: 49.3km/hr for eBikes, 49.6km/hr for standard bikes. This makes sense: if you’re going fast downhill, it doesn’t matter if you’re on an eBike or a standard bike – gravity is doing the work.

There some caveats to the Strava data. People who record their rides on Strava are interested in performance, and probably go faster than “ordinary” riders. Some people mis-labelled their rides (in one case, an “eBike ride” was actually using a BloKart), though I think I was able to weed these out. My sense was that the eBike rides tended to be more utility oriented than the standard bike rides, which tended to be recreational sport rides. This could explain why this study shows eBikes averaging slower speeds than standard bikes. There was probably a broader range of individual riders among the standard riders than the eBike riders.

So what can we conclude about eBike speeds, and whether they are a threat to people riding standard bikes, or walking on shared paths? eBikes are “designed to be primarily propelled by the muscular energy of the rider” so in theory people using them should behave similarly to people on standard bikes, and the research seems to show this. In fact we have a range of types of bikes and riders, that tend to travel at different speeds. A lycra clad rider on a dropped handlebar bike training for the Taupo Cycling challenge will travel at a different speed than someone heading down to the dairy on their upright city bike. It looks like eBikes are just another kind of bike, and their speeds fall into the same general range as other bikes.

CAW February meeting

Will we see an iconic cycle path on Cobham Drive in 2017?

The first CAW meetup for 2017! The line up for discussion is

  • Go By Bike Day
  • progress with WCC cycling projects, e.g. Hutt Rd
  • update from NZTA about their initiatives, e.g. Petone-Ngauranga shared path
  • ideas for CBD improvements
  • key issues / concerns

Usual time and location: 6-7:30 pm Tuesday 7 Feb, Sustainability Trust, Forresters Ln, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

See you there!

Pledging to make Bikes Welcome



One of the issues with getting bike facilities is the reaction of businesses. When parking spaces get replaced by bike lanes, business owners ask where their customers are going to park. Of course, this isn’t really an issue – people patronise businesses, not cars, and there’s plenty of evidence that building bike lanes helps businesses on the route.

A new group, Bikes Welcome, is working on this issue. By providing a range of education and publicity initiatives, Bikes Welcome aims to change the perception of biking, and promote a bike friendly business culture.

If you’d like to help (and who wouldn’t?) Bikes Welcome is running a Pledge Me campaign. You’ve got until 28 February to pledge your support, but why wait till then, when you can do it now?

Electric assist bikes trial on Wellington tracks

Old coach road: eBike and horse rider
eBike and horse rider on the Old Coach Trail to Ohariu

Electric assist bikes (eBikes) are a great innovation in Wellington, but until recently WCC has ruled that they are motorised vehicles, and not allowed on the Open Space reserve tracks. However WCC is now trialing eBike access to a selection of tracks for one year.

The tracks include:

  • Hataitai to City Walkway (commuter link track)
  • Newtown to Hataitai Walkway (commuter link track)
  • Te Ahumairangi Hill (commuter link track)
  • Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park – downhill tracks north of Snake Charmer, and restricted to uphill on the 4WD tracks. (Not open to e-bikes: Koru, Sally Alley, Nikau, Leaping Lizard and Possum Bait Line, as these cannot be accessed from the 4WD tracks)
  • Skyline Walkway from Makara Peak to Old Coach Road, including 4WD tracks at Chartwell and Sirsi Terrace
  • Old Coach Road
  • South coast (Te Kopahou) along coast line and the Tip Track and Red Rocks Track
  • Spicer Forest Road and through to Tawa (Chastudon Place) and Broken Hill Road, Porirua
  • Sanctuary Fence Line, through to Wrights Hills via 4WD tracks only

See here for Maps of the tracks

As part of the one year trial, WCC is surveying track users about how they have been affected by eBikes. Please fill out the survey whenever you use one of these tracks – as a walker, bike rider, or eBike rider.

For the trial, an eBike is defined as a bicycle that is mainly powered by human energy but assisted by a maximum continuous rated electric motor of up to 300 watts. The power assistance is limited to 25 km/h. eBikes complying with the EU Pedelec specification, e.g. have the Bosch motor system, will already have this limit built in.  If you don’t have the power cutoff set on your eBike, you can probably set it on the controller of your eBike.  It’s best to consult your user manual. As guide, here’s how you do it on the common King-Meter controller:

  • Hold both + and – buttons down for 2 seconds to enter user settings
  • Hold both – and M buttons and enter password 0512 (this step may not be necessary, or the password for your controller may be different)
  • Select “Limit Speed” and set this to 25
  • Hold M for 2 Seconds to confirm

It’s great that eBike users, who are often older mountain bikers like me who no longer have the fitness to tackle the big hills, will be able to enjoy the Open Space reserves. The trial will also open up some useful commuting routes.

It’s important that we respect other users so all get to enjoy the trails.


Go By Bike Day celebrates the Bike Bicentennial

15109631_1699962993650878_3307091250734953700_nWas your New Year’s resolution to bike to work? Go By Bike Day will be along to help you in February.

GO BY BIKE DAY 2017 celebrates 200 years of the bicycle invention AND everyone who bikes in Wellington – whether you’re the tried and true commuter, the sexy shaven lycra-clad, the steeze at Makara, the fair weather cruiser, or even if you’re just too cheap to take the bus! Come out to enjoy the scrumptious brekky and that amazing cup of Peoples Coffee that will vastly improve the quality of your life!

Meet us down under the sails at Queens Wharf, 7-9am 8 February.

What’s new this year? Cheer on your nimble cohorts in action for the fastest flat fix competition, watch the best on one wheel then learn how to conquer the Unicycle. Don’t forget the grade-A bike checks, our favourite stalls, prize draws AND pedal your juice! Yes, the smoothie bike is back in action- pedal to puree! Plus, our guest speakers! Find out if Justin Lester really is the new “Cycling Mayor”? And if that isn’t enough, our secret comedian MC radiates caliber and confidence!

Santa gets “on his bike” for Xmas deliveries


A senior SpokesElf for Santa Claus has confirmed that this Xmas the traditional deliveries would be made using sustainable transport. Santa will be using a specially designed electric assist cargo bike to service Xmas stockings around the world.

“We had to move to a 21st century technology” said the SpokesElf “The reindeer methane emissions meant that the North Pole couldn’t meet its COP22 and Kyoto climate change targets”. In addition, Santa’s multiple manifestations were contributing to traffic congestion “Deliveries to South Auckland, for example, weren’t completed until after New Year, due to gridlock on the Southern Motorway.”

Another important factor was Santa’s health “Obesity is a real hazard in his profession. We’d had him on statins and beta blockers for some time, but there was a real risk of the delivery programme collapsing if he had a cardiac arrest”. Santa has been in training for the 24 December ride, and is seeing positive effects already “Mrs Claus in particular is appreciative of the new, slimmer Santa”.

Santa’s helpers expect the 2016 deliveries to go smoothly, “particularly in Auckland where the Northwest cycleway, and the award winning Lightpath/Te Ara i Whiti, facilitate bicycle transport” Deliveries to the North Shore will be facilitated in future years by SkyPath.

The situation is more mixed in Wellington. “It’s going to be pretty good for Island Bay and Tawa where there are protected cycle lanes, but outside of that Santa will have to take care”. Several elves have qualified as Pedal Ready instructors, and are giving Santa the confidence to ride efficiently in regular traffic.

There are concerns in the US, where the incoming Trump administration is believed to be insisting that Santa uses Detroit built sleighs powered by Nebraska tar sands. In Britain, Brexit may mean that Saint Nicolaus, an EU citizen, will not be able to undertake his share of the Yuletide deliveries.

An omnibus in the bike lane: new blocking rule

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was good news for people who bike when new bike lanes were added to Victoria St. However at busy times, the lanes approaching Ghuznee St and Vivian St are often blocked by vehicles attempting to reach the left turn lane, but not quite making it. The same situation also occurs at the Featherston St/Bunny St intersection.

Here’s where the Omnibus comes to the rescue – not a real people mover, but the Land Transport Rule: Omnibus Amendment 2016This put together a number of changes (the “omnibus”) to the Land Transport rules that govern our roads. The amendments include one relating to blocking cycle lanes: “a driver (other than a cyclist) approaching an intersection or an area controlled by traffic signals must not enter a cycle lane if the driver’s intended passage or exit from that cycle lane is blocked by stationary traffic.” (Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 4.5(3), to be technical)

Why is this rule important?  It’s not just because vehicles blocking the cycle lane hold bikes up, but because the bike lane gives people a space where they can feel safe on bikes. Having vehicles intrude into this space makes it feel less safe, and makes biking less attractive. Less biking means more congestion, to the detriment of people who need to drive cars.

The new rule came into force on 1 December. How should people driving motor vehicles and riding bikes adapt to the new rule?

If you’re driving a motor vehicle, and need to turn left across a bike lane to get to the left turning lane:

  • Indicate that you wish to turn
  • Check there is space for your vehicle in the left turning lane
  • Check that there isn’t a bike approaching in the bike lane
  • If there is a bike approaching, wait till it is safe to cross the bike lane. Don’t worry that other vehicles may be held up behind you. Straight ahead vehicles have the option of using one of the other lanes, and in any case it’s better to hold up other vehicles for a few seconds than to endanger yourself or people on bikes. Bikes need the bike lane to access the advance stop boxes at the intersection, which helps them to move off safely without holding up other traffic.
  • When it’s safe to move into the left turn lane without blocking the bike lane, do so.
  • When you make the left turn, avoid swinging into the bike lane.
  • If you are caught blocking the cycle lane, you could pay $150 towards improving road safety (aka a “fine”).

If you’re riding a bike on the bike lane  between a left turning lane and a straight through lane:

  • Be tolerant – a vehicle may be blocking the lane because of an unexpected change in traffic flow
  • Give a cheery wave to drivers who wait for you to come through on the bike lane.
  • Avoid remonstrating with drivers, or banging bodywork, even though this is tempting. This reinforces the image of the “aggressive cyclist”, and could put you in danger if the driver reacts badly. Worse still, the driver could be your next door neighbor 🙂
  • If the bike lane is blocked, signal right and move cautiously to filter around the blockage. If the lights change and the traffic starts moving, hold your lane and move with the traffic until it’s safe to return to the bike lane.

Incidentally there are other rule changes that affect biking: making it clearer how bikes and cycle lanes should pass through intersections, allowing vehicles to pass bikes using a flush median (the hashed painted areas in the centre of some roads, e.g. Greta Point), formally recognising sharrows, allowing (actual) buses to use cycle lanes when dropping off and picking up passengers, and extending the time during which bike lights should be used. These relatively small changes will make it safer and more attractive to travel by bike. Other changes are in the pipeline.

Does Santa have Cobham Drive in her sack for active commuters?

Cobham Drive cycling and walking route (illustrative example)

Two Christmases have passed since the Urban Cycleways Programme (UCP) was launched, promising generous funding of urban cycling projects. In Auckland this resulted in the award winning Light Path/ Te Ara I Whiti, and the Quay Street cycleway that has already overloaded its installed cycle counter. But Wellington is a different story. So far there has been little progress, although we’re due to see pole removal and improved entrance crossings on the Hutt Road Cycleway.

However we do have an opportunity to catch up with Auckland. Cobham Drive is one of the main ways in which people from the eastern suburbs bike, walk and run to the CBD. This is a key section of the Great Harbour Way/ Te Ara o Pōneke, the cycling and walking route around the great harbour of Tara. But the shared path on the northern side of SH1 is unattractive, despite the best efforts of the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Cycling or walking along the route, you’re dodging other people on bikes coming at you on the narrow path. You’re conscious of the stream of polluting vehicles heading for the airport, rather than the nearby beach with the occasional pod of dolphins rounding up a feed of harbour fish.

Wind sculptures, Cobham drive
Cobham Drive – not just about the bikes

One of the UCP proposals is upgrade this shared path to separated cycling and walking paths. $4 million has been allocated to this. Making it more attractive will encourage more active commuting from Miramar and Seatoun.  With good design, it could create a positive vibe about cycling, and could be a destination in itself, in the way that Te Ara I Whiti has become in Auckland, or the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge in Taranaki. There are no politically awkward conflicts with businesses and parking.

Cobham drive wind sculptures
Lots of potential for improvement

So what’s stopping Cobham Drive from being an early Christmas present to people who bike and walk in Wellington? There are some issues. The council’s concept diagram appears to have removed the on road shoulder, which won’t please roadies or fast commuters. There may be resource issues in developing the walking path close to the shore. The cycling path should be visually different from the walking path, looking like a road so that walkers aren’t tempted to stray. But these are standard cycleway design issues, and have been solved in countless locations around the world. What matters is that we get on with it, before the Government decides that the UCP funding is better utilised north of the Bombay Hills.

If you’d like well designed cycling and walking paths along Cobham Drive, send a message to Santa, in this case Sarah Free (Councillor and Portfolio leader for Public Transport, Cycling and Walking, and the WCC Cycling Team ( And offer them the season’s greetings too – they deserve it!

Cycle paths: quake proofing our transport network

Te Ara Tawa - Porirua trail
Ara Tawa between Kenepuru and Porirua

With all the fuss about Island Bay, you may not be aware of Wellington and Porirua Councils’ success in creating a 20km cycle route leading north out of the City, which, as well as providing for commuting and recreation, could be a vital part of our post earthquake transport network.

What is this lifesaving route? It starts at Takapu Rd Station as Ara Tawa (which surprisingly doesn’t rate a description on WCC’s website), heading north beside the railway line, past Tawa College and on to join Porirua’s Ara Harakeke past the city centre to Pukerua Bay.

When the “big one” arrives, this cycle route could be vital for people making their way home from Wellington CBD. Although there have been practices for people to find out whether they can walk home, biking will be a lot more efficient and quicker. In fact it’s an argument for biking to work, or at least having a bike at work; and it’s likely that central city bike shops will sell out quickly, as London bike shops did after the 2005 Tube bombings. A Kaikoura university student used a bike down shattered SH1 to catch a plane back to Canterbury Uni – interestingly beating the rest of his family who waited for a helicopter.

Why did Ara Tawa go ahead relatively painlessly, while Island Bay floundered? It’s complicated, but some key points might be:

  • Ara Tawa arose out of a community initiative to provide a cycling and walking track through the valley
  • There was adequate stream and rail reserve to put the trail on without encroaching on roads and parking
  • From the start, it connected logical destinations, particularly providing a “safe schools” route for students

Of course there is still the problem of getting to Ara Tawa’s southern end – Hutt Road, Ngauranga Gorge, the Johnsonville Triangle, and Middleton Rd are not yet bike friendly, and there is a need to build on the success of Ara Tawa by improving these linkages, and securing a resilient route for bikes from the Wellington CBD to the northern suburbs.

Even if you don’t live in the northern suburbs (and there isn’t an earthquake), it’s worth a ride on Ara Tawa/Ara Harakeke to see what has been achieved. You can use “bike the train” to get to and from the route, for example getting the train to Pukerua Bay, then riding “mainly downhill” to Takapu Rd, or reversing the direction if a southerly will give you wind assistance.

CAW December meeting

15134800_10210261650313100_2871298643292876810_nCelebrate your favourite cycling moments / events of 2016 at our final monthly CAW meeting on Tuesday 6 December. Email 3-5 photos to together with a caption or let us know if you want to say a few words about the photos.

Also, bring along your ideas on quick fixes that would make the Wellington CBD better to bike.

Tuesday 6 December, 6-7:30pm, Sustainability Trust, 2 Forresters Lane (off Tory Street)