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"The whole of the 20th century has always put the car at the centre. So by putting the pedestrian first, you create these liveable places I think, with more attraction and interest and character ... liveability."
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Sydney Morning Herald - Sunday 14 August 2011

THEY are bikes with motors, but don't call them motorbikes.

Bicycle purists may consider that electric bikes are ''cheating'', but Sydney's hilly streets and the brand new network of cycleways means they are increasing in popularity.

However, the transport hybrid is now coming under scrutiny, with the NSW government being pushed to enforce stricter legislation on electric bikes as part of a wider inquiry on shared paths.

Harold Scruby, of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, has prepared a submission to the government's Staysafe committee, requesting an inquiry into paths that can be used by both cyclists and pedestrians.

Mr Scruby argued that shared paths are unsafe for pedestrians, and that bike lanes and footpaths should not be merged.

''I've got no problems with people riding on designated bike paths, but when they come up onto the footpath it can cause serious injury or death,'' Mr Scruby said.

He is asking that electric bikes, in particular, be more strictly regulated, with mandatory licences, registration and insurance.

The opposition transport spokeswoman, Penny Sharpe, said she supported the inquiry but did not think further regulation of electric bikes was necessary. ''They can only go up to about 35km/h, and you can pedal that fast anyway,'' Ms Sharpe said.

The Bicycle NSW chief executive, Omar Khalifa, said they would not support the exclusion of electric bikes or introduction of registration.

''We need to get used to sharing road surfaces and paths, and see them as a network whose design and purpose must be flexible Until we can sufficiently cater for everyone's needs, we will all need to live with reasonable compromise,'' he said.

Ron Remen from Bondi electric bike store Yelectric.org said electric bikes do not go faster than an average bicycle, and were often used by older people who would not feel comfortable riding on the road.

''These are people who normally wouldn't ride, to help them ride up hills, and get active. If they can't ride on shared paths, that option is gone,'' he said. ''If you were required to get a licence, no one would ride [electric bikes].''

Electric bike user Robert Brewer, 60, rides from Kirribilli to the city each day. He said it made no sense to class electric bikes as any different to pushbikes.

''All the motor does is take away some of the effort that you would put into cycling,'' Mr Brewer said.

''I am in corporate life, and I wanted to cycle to work without having to change or have a shower when I arrive.''

A spokesman for the NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, said the government was waiting on a report from Austroads, the Australian and New Zealand road transport and traffic authorities, about the classification and registration of electric bikes.

© Sydney Morning Herald