Both land management regulators and mountain bike trail access advocates have argued for bans of electric bicycles on outdoor trails that are accessible to mountain bikes, citing potential safety hazards as well as the potential for electric bikes to damage trails. A study conducted by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, however, found that the physical impacts of low-powered pedal-assist electric mountain bikes may be similar to traditional mountain bikes.
In China, which has the highest number of electric bicycles in the world, electric bikes currently come under the same classification as bicycles and hence don't require a driver's license to operate. Previously it was required that users registered their bike in order to be recovered if stolen, although this has recently been abolished. Due to a recent rise in electric-bicycle-related accidents, caused mostly by inexperienced riders who ride on the wrong side of the road, run red lights, don't use headlights at night etc, the Chinese government plans to change the legal status of illegal bicycles so that vehicles with an unladen weight of 20 kg or more and a top speed of 30kmh or more will require a motorcycle license to operate, while vehicles lighter than 20 kg and slower than 30kmh can be ridden unlicensed. In the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen, electric bicycles, like all motorcycles, are banned from certain downtown districts. There are also bans in place in small areas of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing.
Simple, convenient, cheap, and economical—bicycles are one of the world's favorite forms of transportation. But they're not for everyone. They can be hard to pedal up and down hills or with heavy loads, and elderly or disabled people may find them impossible to manage. In the last few years, a new generation of electric bicycles has begun to revolutionize our idea of environmentally friendly transportation. These new cycles have all the convenience of cars with all the simple economy of ordinary cycles. Let's take a closer look at how they work.