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The Week: The real potential of the electric vehicle revolution

Great opinion/policy piece on the potential of e-bikes to radically transform cities.

Electric cars are the wave of the future, if you believe the marketing of the big automobile companies. Kia, Nissan, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, and of course Tesla have electric models on sale this year, as well as luxury brands Audi, Porsche, and BMW. It seems likely that in the next few decades, gas- or diesel-powered cars and trucks will be made completely obsolete.

But while electric cars would be a big improvement over the gasoline status quo, they wouldn't solve most of the biggest problems created by cars. In fact, they are far from the most promising electric vehicles on the market. That prize must go to electric variants of traditional human-powered transportation — the e-scooter, the e-skateboard, and above all the e-bike. These have a far larger potential to revolutionize congested American cities and provide an enormous increase in health and convenience for American citizens — but it will require drastic policy changes to tap that potential.

Read the full piece at

Electric buses would also greatly transform cities. I remember listening to a fascinating interview about improving bus transport in cities on 99% Invisible.

The typical general-purpose lane of traffic in a city can carry around 1,000-2,000 people per hour. If you create a bus-only lane, that number jumps up to 4,000-8,000 per hour. If you give over more of the street to transit and create a transitway that goes up to 10,000-25,000 people per hour.

Listen to the full piece at…e/missing-the-bus.

An informal survey of bicycle riders on Market Street shows that people don't ride because the traffic is concerning, as are the hills. E-bikes can only take care of the latter. Now that parts of Market Street here in SF are car free, I'm interested to see how the usage numbers change. Update: Initial measurements on car free Market Street look good.