From the beginning and still today, bicycles have been and are employed for many uses. In a utilitarian way, bicycles are used for transportation, bicycle commuting, and utility cycling. It can be used as a 'work horse', used by mail carriers, paramedics, police, messengers, and general delivery services. Military uses of bicycles include communications, reconnaissance, troop movement, supply of provisions, and patrol. See also: bicycle infantry.
If you are a person who enjoys riding a bike casually at a typical bike path speed (10-15mph), and you like the idea of an ebike push up a hill, against the wind or to relieving a sore knee, then your market for a fully legally defined ebike is very broad and your practical use only has a few limitations. Most ebikes will meet your needs and expectation. I would estimate that 85% of the electric bikes on the market are 100% compliant meeting the federal definition. I encourage you to take the plunge and get a good quality ebike and ride more with assist. Do so with the confidence that electric bikes are here to stay. Coexisting with pedestrians and other cyclist will become a normal part of cycling life.
UPDATE (2019-03-15): I've now got more than 110 miles on the bike and still loving it. The longest ride I did was 28.5 miles and the display was still showing about two bars left on the battery. But the battery gauge is not accurate. Even when it went down to two bars it would also jump back up to 4 bars and stay that way for awhile. So it's really hard to tell how much power you have left. On one ride, after 14 miles the pedal assist stopped working all of a sudden. I stopped and re-seated the cadence sensor and it started working again. Even when PAS didn't work the throttle was still working. It hasn't happened since. There was also a lot of rattling noises which I found was the battery rattling around in the mounting bracket.
"Electric power-assisted bicycle" means a vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is equipped with (i) pedals that allow propulsion by human power and (ii) an electric motor with an input of no more than 1,000 watts that reduces the pedal effort required of the rider. For the purposes of Chapter 8 of this title, an electric power-assisted bicycle shall be a vehicle when operated on a highway.
Bicycles and horse buggies were the two mainstays of private transportation just prior to the automobile, and the grading of smooth roads in the late 19th century was stimulated by the widespread advertising, production, and use of these devices. More than 1 billion bicycles have been manufactured worldwide as of the early 21st century. Bicycles are the most common vehicle of any kind in the world, and the most numerous model of any kind of vehicle, whether human-powered or motor vehicle, is the Chinese Flying Pigeon, with numbers exceeding 500 million. The next most numerous vehicle, the Honda Super Cub motorcycle, has more than 60 million units made, while most produced car, the Toyota Corolla, has reached 35 million and counting.
But the good times of the stealthy ebike existence will not endure forever. The ebike market is growing steadily and more so, technology is driving performance up and costs down. The market for a green, lifestyle friendly, transportation technology, with GPS, theft ID, cell service and probably skim lattes is alive and driving an emerging market. It is a matter of time before we all must face and respond to the legal demands of the state and local laws. Not to be over obligatory about being legal and duty oriented, but I do call on my fellow ebikers to ride legal, whether ebike, moped or other. Go ahead and build the 1200W ebike of your dreams, but get it insured and licensed if you must. Such compliance will set the precedence for public acceptance of ebikes in general, and build a track record for expansion and mainstreaming of moped-speed ebikes for commuter value driven needs of the future.
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.