The Amish are loving electric bikes
March 17, 2023 2:25 AM   Subscribe

Believe it or not, the Amish are loving electric bikes. "Electric bicycles have been finding favor in a growing number of communities. From hunters to surfers and even soldiers, e-bikes and their low-cost, far-reaching transportation options have permeated a surprising number of different groups and use cases. The latest community adopting e-bikes en masse may be even more of a surprise: the Amish. Amish communities, more often known for their black buggies pulled by horses, have been increasingly turning to electric bikes as an alternative form of transportation."
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (22 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not surprised about this at all. The Mennonite contractors I've worked with are all about technology that will help them with work and will not disrupt community. Some communities are very bike-oriented: there's a bike company that sells specifically to Anabaptist communities, solid roadsters with no chrome.
posted by scruss at 3:29 AM on March 17 [13 favorites]


posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries

eponyvehicular
posted by progosk at 4:49 AM on March 17 [35 favorites]


The Amish are not about rejecting technology for its own sake. They use power tools, but exclusively compressed air tools rather than electric. It's all about maintaining "tradition" which really means maintaining control and the specific brand of patriarchy they've got going.

I feel like the Amish are one of those groups that get a free pass on a lot of sketchy stuff because of "religious freedom" plus they make good cheese and the horses and buggies are cute.
posted by rikschell at 5:12 AM on March 17 [31 favorites]


This article's "believe it or not" tome is another example of 'motornormativity.'

It s automobiles that are weird. No one needs to generate that much power to move around.
posted by eustatic at 5:18 AM on March 17 [18 favorites]


I don't dispute that, but I would note that the wars instigated by the non-Amish have led to vastly more canine (and human) suffering than the most ambitious puppy mill operator could dream of.

I suspect that's true even if we adjust for the population of both groups, and even if we allow for the other forms of horror that are found within Amish communities.

Perhaps there is some irreducible quantum of awfulness present in all human groups.

At any rate it would be great if all Amish-related threads didn't instantly descend into anti-Anabaptist sentiment that would do Hegel proud.

Thanks for this interesting post! In these times of ever-growing technological horror it is useful to see how some communities are still able to make deliberate choices about what they will accept.
posted by Not A Thing at 6:26 AM on March 17 [18 favorites]


No one needs to generate that much power to move around.

The whole concept of car ownership being normalized is odd. Visualize talking to your umpteen-times-great-grandparents when they were your age.

“How comes it that thou hast travelled so many leagues in thy time?”

“Well, I have a... an oversized metal box with seats inside. It moves around when I press certain pedals in it?”

“Aye, a waggon... my neighbour Nathaniel hath one and I have ridden in it many a time. Pray, how many horses draw it?”

“No, it moves with its own power.”

“This is witchcraft! Surely it must take some fuel, then — wood or coal?”

“Well, in a few centuries you’re going to find that many millions of years ago these huge creatures called dinosaurs lived. And this vehicle burns their remains.”

“God have mercy! Are these... these... burning dino-saur waggons very dear? They cost much coin?”

“Oh, yes, it is the priciest thing I own.”

“Surely, then, this device must be guarded carefully and lovingly if it demandeth such of thy time and wealth.”

“Nah, I just leave it out in the street for birds to shit on.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:06 AM on March 17 [17 favorites]


I'm happy that many people, including apparently some Amish communities, are getting into e-bikes. Bikes in general are an underused option in North America.

Somewhat related - another advance on the bike front.

I for one welcome our new biking overlords.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:43 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


“It’s a lot quicker to jump on your bike and go into town than it is to bring your horse into the barn, harness it to the buggy, and go. It’s a lot quicker and you travel faster too.”

oh boy hey do I have great news for you about literally thousands of other things, Mr. Amish Person
posted by foldedfish at 8:13 AM on March 17 [8 favorites]


I have great news for you about literally thousands of other things

My partner converted my bike into an e-bike for my knees. It has had other benefits. Getting through intersections faster, getting off high-speed roads faster, getting places in spite of urban sprawl. Notice that these other benefits are all about interfacing with car culture.
posted by aniola at 8:17 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Fascinating story.

I'm still ambivalent on ebikes. I've gotten back into bicycling and love the work involved.
And my local bikeshop dreads ebikes for the typical reasons: the bursting into flame aspect, the high cost, the landfill issue, scarce rare earths, and a kind of "biking means work" attitude.

Yet others, like Bill McKibben, make a compelling case for the things. Good for folks like aniola who have physical issues. And if it gets more ppl away from cars, it's a net win.

Which reminds me to go buy a new bikelock and light...
posted by doctornemo at 8:33 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Another use case is parents. People who ride bikes and now they have a growing youngster. They ride e-bikes and haul their kids around that way instead of getting a car.
posted by aniola at 8:37 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


I'm still ambivalent on ebikes. I've gotten back into bicycling and love the work involved.
And my local bikeshop dreads ebikes for the typical reasons: the bursting into flame aspect, the high cost, the landfill issue, scarce rare earths, and a kind of "biking means work" attitude.


Perfect… enemy of the good … something something.

Look I understand that from the perspective of somebody who loves to ride bikes and exercise it’s clearly a different thing, more complex, more expensive less health benefits (maybe). And yeah the battery hazards are concerning.

But we’re not trying to get people to switch their modes of transportation just because we think bikes are so cool. We’re desperately trying to get people to switch so that we emit less CO2, and e-bikes can help because they lower the barrier to entry, augment the range, makes it possible to do it without breaking a sweat uphill … they still don’t solve the « protect you form the environment » part that cars do well though. And the way we built our cities is still problematic in a lot of ways, so they won’t be an a panacea for everybody.

I think we need to embrace them, even with the imperfections, we’re not solving this with a single solution.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 8:53 AM on March 17 [13 favorites]


And doctornemo, I’m mostly reacting to the bike shop reaction, not yours.
posted by WaterAndPixels at 8:59 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I remember asking why a Norwegian work canteen did not serve deserts, and being told they were excluded “because they’re bad for us”. I’d love to envisage a future where more local communities choose the technologies they adopt and avoid for the same reasons.
posted by rongorongo at 9:02 AM on March 17


Sure you have to use rare earth metals for the batteries in the bikes but bikes themselves are pretty efficient so you're probably better off using those rare earth metals to move bicycles instead of cars.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:37 AM on March 17 [7 favorites]


Mod note: Comment removed. Please refrain from making broad generalizations about any group, per the Content Policy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 10:13 AM on March 17


rikschell, it has been over 15 years since I have been down there, but the Amish in Indiana seemed to be fine with electrical tools as long as they were powered by a portable gas generator.
posted by rfs at 1:33 PM on March 17


Maybe an abvious question, but this sounds like ebikes have taken off while regular bikes haven't? Why is that?
posted by Braeburn at 5:01 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


this sounds like ebikes have taken off while regular bikes haven't?
I don’t think that’s true. As mentioned above, some Amish communities have been big on bicycles for a long time. Here’s an interview with some Amish bike store owners with some more details. (But as the article notes, other Amish communities use simpler kick scooters instead of pedal bikes.)
posted by mbrubeck at 6:10 PM on March 17


Maybe an abvious question, but this sounds like ebikes have taken off while regular bikes haven't? Why is that?

Regular bikes also gained in popularity recently but e-bikes are newer and so they stick out more.
posted by aniola at 8:55 PM on March 17


As I understood the Amish relationship to technology back in the 80s, when I learned they were fine with propane and gas-powered machinery, it wasn’t non-human power they were against as much as they were for maintaining a fully severable connection to “the World,” as in the modern, secular, capitalist, consumer world. This originated in their religious mandate to avoid military service in the old country. They didn’t want electric power or gas delivered via a line to the house because it would indicate participation in a larger system; but they would use it if delivered by a tank or a battery with a finite supply they had to replenish by human energy (as I’m going to get the tank filled). This is why todays Amish are ok with cell phones - charge the batter using a human-replenished source, and it’s ok to use. The thing that matters is being bound into a network of supply delivery that would obligate them into a modern technological world. Through that lens, a lot of stuff is not inconsistent.
posted by Miko at 9:55 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Maybe an obvious question, but this sounds like ebikes have taken off while regular bikes haven't? Why is that?

[speaking broadly, not specifically the Amish uptake] E-bikes are closing the gap between cycling perceived as as kids' toy/elite sports obsession/sweaty stoic virtue/earth-hugging statement, and as convenient and efficient transportation for the average North American. More seriously - people are learning that one can hop on an ebike to do many types of errands and short trips, without requiring customized gear, being a jock, and a shower at the end of the ride.

In this regard - besides their own obvious virtues over the family car, e-bikes are likely a gateway drug to biking in general. E-bikers are going to demand infrastructure improvements that will also benefit most cyclists, period. So, yay.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:37 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


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