By ELAINE MALLON
Capital News Service
LANSING — From the streets of the Sugar Hill Arts District in Detroit to downtown Grand Rapids, electric bicycles for rent seem to be almost everywhere.
Seen as a climate-friendly alternative to driving a car, climate experts are encouraging people to consider bicycling to work.
Now bicycle stores and distributors across the country are experiencing a boom in demand for electric bicycles. In the past year, sales across the country for electric bikes grew by 240%, and 15% for traditional bikes, according to the NPD Group, a marketing research company.
For American Cycle and Fitness in Okemos, sales of electric bicycles grew by 34% in the last year, according to a recent sales report.
Sales may be up for TREK brand electric bicycles, but customers are having to wait longer for their e-bikes due to a shortage in parts, sales associate Martti Weaver said.
American Cycle and Fitness has eight stores throughout Michigan: Detroit, Okemos, Grand Ledge, Grosse Pointe, Pontiac, Macomb Township, Royal Oak and Walled Lake.
“Provided we have the bikes within our network of stores, it should take two weeks,” Weaver said. “If not, it could be anywhere from a month to many months. For some bicycles it’s a couple of years out.”
According to Weaver, e-mountain bikes and e-road bikes have the highest demand and thus also face high shortages.
For example, Turboant brand electric bicycles are currently on pre-order with an eight-month waiting list, according to marketing manager Chelsie Chen.
Some other stores do not keep a waiting list, however.
Weaver said the shortage of crucial parts can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Electric bicycles cost thousands of dollars, ranging from about $1,200 to $13,000 for high-end models.
In California, the legislature approved $10 million for the E-Bike Affordability Program. The program will help people purchase electric bicycles with the hopes of reducing travel by car.
Statewide, Michigan has no law or subsidies encouraging the purchase of e-bikes.
Marketed as a better option for commuting to work, Weaver said he sees most e-bike customers at American Cycle and Fitness are of retirement age.
“They’re looking for a way to continue bicycling as far as they used to, or they’re looking for a way to get out of the house,” Weaver said. “They don’t want to put an immense strain on their body just by starting out on a regular bicycle.”