Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Motorized Bicycles Growing in Popularity in Erie

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Motorized Bicycles Growing in Popularity in Erie

Article excerpt

ERIE, Pa. -- Mike Miller decided it was time to hang up the helmet after two potentially fatal motorcycle accidents.

"I thought, 'I'm going to be dead if I have another crash,' " the 67-year-old Erie man said.

He couldn't stay off two wheels for long, though.

He started riding bicycles a few years after his accidents, but something was missing.

That's when he saw it, parked outside the library -- a motorized bicycle.

It wasn't long before Mr. Miller had strapped a motor to his own bike, creating a machine that falls under the broad category the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation classifies as mo-peds.

"I'm crazy. I can't help myself. I'm a motor head," Mr. Miller said, smiling.

Mr. Miller isn't the only one embracing the two-wheeled trend.

About 30 million electric bikes will be sold worldwide this year, according to a report published by Pike Research, which studies global energy trends.

In general, though, motorized bikes have been slower to catch on in the United States than in other parts of the world. The Detroit News reported that fewer than 100,000 electric bikes were sold in 2011.

Mr. Miller isn't seeing too many in Erie, either.

Typically, fewer than 10 people join in a monthly ride Mr. Miller takes with a group of local cyclists, he said.

Assisted pedal cycles are bicycles that are powered either electrically, through a battery or by a gas motor.

The motor doesn't replace pedaling. But it does make pedaling easier.

The only trouble is, the bikes are illegal if they're not registered.

Low-speed electric or motor bikes must be registered and insured, and riders must have a license, said Jan McKnight, PennDOT community relations coordinator.

Mr. Miller, a retired maintenance worker, started working with motorized bikes in the late '90s, and he has built four gas-powered and three electric-powered bikes from kits.

"Each one gets a little better," he said.

He's sold all of them except two electric bikes.

Mr. Miller builds his bikes during the winter, but his latest bike, an electric, may have satisfied his itch to tinker.

"I don't see how I can improve it," he said. He's been riding it for two years now, and he's not looking to upgrade yet. …

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