The Surprising New Change You'll See on Roads After Coronavirus

Soon you may be passing more electric bikes than cars.

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Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, lockdowns across the nation have made streets look like ghost towns. Even cities like New York and Los Angeles—both known for their heavy traffic—have seen a massive drop in traffic, even near top attractions like Times Square or Hollywood Boulevard. In fact, NPR reported that the average vehicular mileage plummeted between 40 and 60 percent in late March, depending on the region. Yet, while cars collect dust, one mode of transportation has seen a massive spike in popularity because of coronavirus: electric bikes.

In March, e-bike sales in the U.S. jumped 85 percent year-over-year, according to the N.P.D. Group, a market research company. And Google searches for "best electric bike" have soared 60 percent since the World Health Organization (WHO) classified COVID-19 as a pandemic. These developments also reflect a general increase in bike use, as people look for safe ways to be active outside of their homes.

"Our customers have been saying that e-bikes are a great option for the new coronavirus-era way of living," Lectric eBikes co-founder Levi Conlow told Electrek. "The dramatic increase in sales [140 percent since Mar. 15] shows that nationally, people are looking to shift how they get around. It's also a fantastic option for those looking to socially isolate while getting fresh air outside."

a woman rides an electric bike
Shutterstock

City planners are jumping on the trend by closing streets to cars to make space for cyclists and pedestrians. New York City, for instance, legalized the use of e-bikes and e-scooters in April, and a month later, Mayor Bill de Blasio temporarily opened 43 miles of streets to the public. Other urban areas in the U.S. are transforming, too: Seattle is permanently closing 20 miles of streets to traffic; Denver has designated 13 miles; and Oakland's goal is 74 miles, or 10 percent of its streetscape.

As states start to reopen, people are also searching for safe, eco-friendly ways to commute when they return to the office. Crowded public transit and carpools are out of the question for many amid coronavirus concerns, but these battery-powered bikes can quickly and comfortably shuttle commuters around with the press of a button.

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"I was convinced that e-bikes would completely change cities all over the world in the next 10 years, but it seems like because of this crisis, suddenly it's all happening in the next three or four months," Taco Carlier, the chief executive of VanMoof, an Amsterdam-based e-bike brand, told The New York Times. And for more post-pandemic changes, check out the 5 Big Ways Homes Will Look Different After Coronavirus.

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