Thomas Holden does e-bike conversions, custom e-bike builds and trike conversions through his company, Cyclized. Photo by Josiah Pensado.

One Bike at a Time

How e-bikes have changed and are changing the landscape of transportation in Eugene

Have you ever been biking down 13th Avenue on a sunny day only to be passed by a jet engine of a bicycle on your left? Once you catch up to the cyclist in question at the red light on High Street, you see the battery by their crankshaft and watch the LED speedometer on their handlebars slowly go down from 18 miles per hour. The light changes to green, and the cyclists shoot out of the gate going east. 

Was that a bird? A plane? No, it’s an e-bike, the fastest-growing form of transportation taking over Eugene’s streets. 

The bicycle was first developed by inventor Karl Von Drais in 1817 and was known as the “swiftwalker.” Despite sporting no pedals and its wooden frame, Von Drais’ invention would pave the way for further innovations in cycling technology with the first commercially successful bike being the French “velocipede” in the 1860s. 

However, just as bicycle technologies advanced, the invention of the automobile overshadowed that of the bicycle. But with the advent of e-bikes, the future of transportation may lie in its past.

E-bikes have been an ever-growing trend in Eugene and across the whole country as well. According to an industry report by market intelligence firm Mordor Intelligence, e-bike sales eclipsed the sales of electric cars in 2021 with an estimated 400,000 e-bikes being sold in the U.S., with that number only accounting for about one-third of all e-bike sales, the rest being sold via websites or directly from the owner.

Asked about the rise in the popularity of e-bikes, Rob Zako, executive director of Better Eugene Springfield Transportation (BEST), says that he has anecdotally seen a rise of e-bikes since the pandemic. “If there are fewer cars on the road than people to drive, you have less congestion. So car drivers should probably want people to be riding bikes more so that the roads aren’t so crowded,” Zako says. 

He argues that the more e-bikes that are on the road the more benefit to both cyclists and those who drive cars; but, he adds, more e-bikes means more education. 

BEST is planning on having its first “transportation block party”, the Better Ways Block Party, on May 19, to educate the public on what the city is planning with its bike infrastructure, transportation safety and ensuring everyone commutes responsibly, educating people on “safe, healthy, affordable, and clean ways to travel.”

“Everybody has a responsibility to keep themselves and people around them safe, no matter how you get around,” Zako says. “Whether you’re running and you knock over an old woman or you’re running or you’re driving a big SUV and doing 90 miles an hour or running a stoplight.”

E-bikes come in three classes, each with different speed and throttle types. Class 1 e-bike motors only engage when cyclists are pedaling and have a top speed of 20 miles per hour. Class 2 e-bikes have a pedal assist function as well as a throttle and also have a top speed of 20 miles per hour. 

The final classification of e-bikes are class 3 e-bikes, which have a motor to assist in pedaling and a top speed of 28 miles per hour. Class 3 e-bikes cannot travel in bike lanes or any shared-use path because they are not considered bicycles under Oregon law. 

Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are subject to the same laws as regular bikes, but House Bill 4103, which has been passed into law by the Senate as of March 7, clarifies the three different classes as it is now a traffic violation for an individual under the age of 16 who doesn’t have a license or provisional permit to operate class 2 and 3 e-bikes. 

E-bikes are being made to fulfill many different functions, from daily commuters to cargo e-bikes and even e-bikes with a 600 lb. carrying capacity that is used to bow hunt elk. 

With all these different types of e-bikes come different types of cyclists, which is something that J Lundin, owner of Eugene Electric Bikes, sees when he is selling e-bikes. “When it comes to the person that just wants to go fast, they basically want a motorcycle. That’s kind of what they’re looking for.” At his store, Lundin says, “We say, ‘Well, number one, here are the state laws and rules around cycling,’ and we educate them on that real fast.” 

One benefit that Lundin says he sees in e-bikes would be that they get people who otherwise cannot physically ride a traditional bike back in the saddle. “There’s physical limitations that these solve, and it gives people back a sense of life, a sense of ability,” he says. “Most people’s first transportation is their bike when they’re five years old and they’re rolling around the neighborhood.” Then, Lundin continues, those people get a job, get a license and a car and “then they tend to be in the car world for forever. Their body is not what it was when they’re in their 20s and 30s.”

Thomas Holden, volunteer coordinator at Shift Community Cycles and founder of the e-bike conversion shop Cyclized, believes that he plays a role in how e-bikes are changing the cycling landscape in Eugene. 

“I do see that even in four years e-bikes have proliferated. They’re everywhere,” Holden says. “You know, with that also comes their share of problems,” so he says he tries to recommend to people that they get a class 1 e-bike and he tries to build class 1 e-bikes without throttles “because so many people are not really showing proper respect for the cycling ethic and that it’s just pedaling.” He adds, “You pedal along and not use it like a moped.” 

Since Holden can convert regular bicycles into e-bikes, he says it is very important to understand each cyclist’s needs and goals at an individual level to know how to program the mid drive motors he puts on the bikes. 

“I feel an obligation to take care of them because they’re not only my customers,” he says, “they’re my neighbors and they’re part of this community.” 

EWEB offers a $300 rebate to customers who want to purchase a new e-bike, but it is also valid towards converting regular bikes to e-bikes. 

Eugene is constantly expanding its bike infrastructure, and with the ever-expanding projects comes adaptations from all modes of transportation — including, briefly, e-scooters. The most recent adaptation is the collaboration between Eugene, Superpedestrian and Cascadia Mobility. 

Brodie Hylton, Cascadia Mobility executive director,  says that when they introduced the bike share program in 2018, there were many long and drawn-out conversations with the community to ensure the program would go as smoothly as possible. 

Hylton says the introduction of the e-scooter share program lacked much of that same engagement the bike share program saw, making it much more difficult for the community to properly adapt. 

“I think one of the shortcomings of the scooter share pilot was that there wasn’t any community outreach or engagement that was done,” Hylton  says. “We as the operator had to sort of roll with the punches” because Cascadia Mobility didn’t solicit the vendor or establish the pilot program. Hylton hopes that Cascadia Mobility and the city of Eugene can adapt to the rise of e-bikes as well as learn from both programs. 

Despite the challenges of the scooter share program, Hylton is still optimistic about the future of electric transportation, and would love to eventually expand the bike fleet with e-bikes as well as expand the geographic range of the bike-sharing program. 

“The easier we can make it for more people to not drive a car and ride a light electric vehicle to take trips, the more healthy of a community I think we will be,” he says. “So if you want to call it an e-bike takeover, I would say that is a really positive ambition for us as a community that e-bikes do take over.” 

More information on e-bikes can be found at

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