From virtually nothing a decade ago, electric bikes have become an $11 billion global industry.
Jiang Ruming, a marketing manager in Shanghai, owns a van, but for many errands, he rides an electric bicycle through the city’s messy traffic.
Half a world away, in San Francisco, the president of that city's board of supervisors, David Chiu, uses an electric bike to get to meetings without sweating through his suit.
Detroit may be introducing electric car designs and China may be pushing forward with a big expansion of its highways and trains. But people like Jiang, and Chiu — as well as delivery workers in New York, postal employees in Germany and commuters from Canada to Japan — are among the millions taking part in a more accidental transportation upheaval.
It began in China, where an estimated 120 million electric bicycles now hum along the roads, up from a few thousand in the 1990s.
The booming Chinese electric-bike industry is spurring worldwide interest and impressive sales in India, Europe and the US.
China is exporting many bikes, and Western manufacturers are copying the Chinese trend to produce models of their own. “It’s miraculous — it takes the hills out of riding,” said Roger Phillips, 78, who rides an e-bike in Manhattan.