A Two-Wheel Revolution Is Happening On Oahu - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Peter Rosegg

Peter Rosegg was until recently senior spokesperson for Hawaiian Electric. He has an electric bike and has done bicycle touring in Europe and on the mainland.

A quiet revolution is happening on the streets of Honolulu — and many other places.

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I call it The Two-Wheel Revolution. In geeky speak, it’s “micromobility,” a variety of small, generally low-speed vehicles — electric or human-powered, privately owned or part of shared fleets. As “personal” mobility, it can include walking and even powered wheelchairs.

Like it or not, we are going to have to find a way for many different modes of mobility to co-exist on roads and sidewalks that are not getting any wider. Anyone out and about in Honolulu must have noticed:

  • More “traditional” bicycles than ever, including personal bikes and shared Bikis, with an increasing number of electric bikes. A mini-electric bike is on sale at big box stores and online for about $400, so virtually anyone can own one. Top of the line models go for thousands of dollars. More arrive daily.
  • Electric-powered, kick-style scooters, some personally owned and many shared are out there, especially in Waikiki, Ward and Kakaako. Some rental scooters have small side shelves to stand on and others have seats; a few offer a helmet for temporary use. More are coming.
  • Powered skateboards are available with one big, central wheel or four small wheels. Real and ersatz Segways are still around and a few brave souls ride electrified unicycles.
  • Powered wheelchairs are not new but the latest folding models may weigh less than 50 pounds so they can be tossed in a car trunk or an airplane luggage hold.

While “two-wheel” revolution does not do justice to the range of devices that are or soon will be all around us, it may have to do for now. Full-scale electric motorcycles and electric mopeds are available too, but they are not usually included in this “low-speed” category.

Changing The Equation

Hawaii is sometimes called a “paradise” for cycling, true only up to a point. Year-round good weather helps as does people living in fairly flat areas near the coast. But many of us live in the up-hill parts of our city and it is mostly too hot to ride to work or mid-day meetings unless you are prepared to arrive in a sweaty mess.

An electric bike changes the equation, which is why the number of personal e-bikes is growing and many bikeshare systems are adding electrics to their ranks.

Understandably, not everyone is thrilled with these developments, starting with motorists who see traffic lanes or parking disappear to become bike lanes.

It is time to talk about all this in a public forum accessible to everyone.

An article in the Atlantic recently proclaimed, “The E-Bike is a Monstrosity.” A friend who regularly walks the berm in Kailua’s Kawainui Marsh worries about e-bikes whizzing by on a path clearly marked “no motorized vehicles,” threatening walkers with strollers, toddlers and dogs, not to mention traditional cyclists.

A Biki and rider at Leonard's Bakery.
Bikis are showing up more and more all over town, including at Leonard’s Bakery. Will Honolulu work to accommodate more forms of two-wheel transportation? Courtesy: Bikeshare Hawaii

Making a turn across a bike lane can be a harrowing experience, requiring new care and caution. Some sidewalks are becoming more hazardous for walkers from e-scooters in motion or haphazardly parked.

It is time to talk about all this in a public forum accessible to everyone. Starting at noon on Thursday, Sept. 15, and every two weeks thereafter, “The Two-Wheel Revolution” will stream on ThinkTechHawaii.com and then be available on many platforms, including YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Olelo Media and others.

While clearly I am an enthusiast, I hope to draw on 20 years as a journalist with the late, lamented Honolulu Advertiser to keep the discussion open to a variety of outlooks and opinions. I invite you to comment (or volunteer to be interviewed) with an email to thetwowheelrevolution@gmail.com or at the website twowheelrevolution.weebly.com.

You are welcome to hop on.

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About the Author

Peter Rosegg

Peter Rosegg was until recently senior spokesperson for Hawaiian Electric. He has an electric bike and has done bicycle touring in Europe and on the mainland.

Latest Comments (0)

It strikes me as odd how often people claim that there isn't enough room for bike lanes in Honolulu because the streets are too narrow. I don't know why people seem to think that the streets are unusually narrow here, because (excluding some narrow residential streets that would be more suitable for traffic calming as opposed to bike lanes anyway) they're not, in my experience unusually narrow in comparison to mainland streets. If nothing else, there's plenty of room for protected bikelanes on our busiest roads, like Beretania, University, Kapiolani, Ke'eaumoku, Ala Moana, etc (I might add that these streets should also have bus lanes).

Mathgal112 · 1 year ago

One of the ways to increase bike ridership and reduce car traffic is to make more streets pedestrian streets. Downtown, Chinatown, and Waikiki would be good examples of neighborhoods to limit full size motorized vehicles. In dense neighborhoods, cars are a plague. Allowing only small delivery vehicles, and only during a limited time frame would reclaim these streets for walking and biking.As for scooters and the like, requiring them to be licensed, like bicycles, and for the rider to carry insurance would keep them from turning into a nuisance. Some cities have had real issues with all the drunk young folks up on sidewalks on their scooters. Unfortuntately, some enforcement will likely be necessary to ensure that 2-wheel motorized vehicles stay in their lane, don't overwhelm others. The article hints at the generational divide when it comes to different types of vehicles. The goal should always be to be as inclusive as possible, but it starts with the recognition that change is happening. Let's mange the change for the benefit of all.

TannedTom · 1 year ago

Some parts of Hawaii, perhaps. Urban Honolulu would be much more appropriately described as the exact opposite of "paradise" for cycling. I was an avid cyclist during my childhood and college years, and did all of my commuting and grocery shopping on a bicycle during my month-long stays in Japan as a graduate student. Yet, I have no courage and no desire whatsoever to ride a bicycle on Honolulu's crazy streets and rare, poorly designed bicycle paths.

Chiquita · 1 year ago

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