Battery-powered bicycles provide gas-free transportation

Sean Eddins models a Schwinn motor bike at the Varsity Bike Shop in Dinkytown on Sunday. Motor bikes are becoming an increasingly popular trend on campus.

Jennifer Whalen

Sean Eddins models a Schwinn motor bike at the Varsity Bike Shop in Dinkytown on Sunday. Motor bikes are becoming an increasingly popular trend on campus.

Campus commuters looking for a gas-free and sweat-free way to get around need look no further. Electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, have been selling out at DinkytownâÄôs Varsity Bike and Transit ever since their introduction to the store this summer. Even so, e-bikes have a long way to go before they catch on with the student population. Rob DeHoff, owner and manager of Varsity, said thereâÄôs only been one student whoâÄôs bought an e-bike from Varsity, indicating that most students arenâÄôt completely sold on them yet. Dance senior Luke Melsha said he doesnâÄôt want one because theyâÄôre expensive âÄî generally anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 a pop âÄî and he would prefer to get exercise on a regular bike. Like standard bicycles, e-bikes have fully functional pedals. The main difference is the motor, which riders can use if they desire, and can propel the rider at speeds up to 20 mph. The propulsion can either assist manual pedaling or throttle the rider forward with no pedaling necessary. E-bikes run on a battery, so they need to be charged. Each charge should get between 20 and 40 miles, depending on factors like road terrain and rider weight. Still, DeHoff said theyâÄôre âÄúmore of a tool than a toy,âÄù and that people who buy them did so to depend less on cars. DeHoff said more people are searching for a cheaper alternative to cars, especially with rising gas prices. âÄúWeâÄôve only been selling them for three months, but weâÄôve been servicing them for over three years,âÄù DeHoff said while he was hauling in the storeâÄôs newest order of electric bicycles. âÄúWe hate turning down any bike repairs.âÄù Many Twin Cities bicycle shops have been getting more calls asking about electric bicycles, but only some are considering ordering them. The West BankâÄôs Hub bicycle co-operative will be ordering electric bicycles for next spring, with a few demonstration bicycles available this winter. Nationwide retailers Wal-Mart and Target are also starting to sell the bicycles on their websites. However, other local shops, like The Alt in south Minneapolis , said they donâÄôt have the kind of manpower needed to service e-bikes, so they wonâÄôt be ordering them. University police Lt. Troy Buhta said the same laws apply to e-bikes that apply to mopeds and other motorized vehicles. Bicyclists have to carry a valid driverâÄôs license and be at least 16 years old to ride one. Buhta said they should expect to adhere to the same âÄúrules of the roadâÄù as normal bicyclists. Spanish studies sophomore Lis Lawrence said sheâÄôs seen some people riding around the campus on electric bicycles, but she likes her own bicycle because itâÄôs easy to transport. âÄúI saw one guy riding one,âÄù Lawrence said. âÄúIt was loud and obnoxious, and he kept cutting people off.âÄù