If you live in a major city, you’ve likely caught a glimpse of at least a few people riding electric bicycles to get from one place to another—even if you didn’t realize what you were seeing. Though rates of adoption vary wildly based on city, the popularity of electric bikes (or e-bikes) is increasing at an astounding rate, forcing lawmakers to reconsider how the vehicles should be classified, and encouraging e-bike manufacturers and distributors to provide the world with more e-bikes.

So what is it that’s managed to skyrocket the popularity of these inventive new vehicles?

More Than a Bike But Less Than a Car

Let’s start with the basics. In case you aren’t familiar, an e-bike is a type of modified bicycle; it looks and functions just like a traditional bicycle, and if a user desires, they can still pedal and gain momentum like they would with a traditional bicycle. However, e-bikes also come equipped with a small electric motor, which can be used to power the vehicle independently, ultimately reaching speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour (which may be limited based on local laws).

The electric motor can be charged, much like an electric car, using electricity. It has zero emissions, making it much more efficient than a combustion engine vehicle, and is faster and less effort-intensive than a conventional bicycle. For people who like the idea of biking, but need something faster or less sweat-intensive, e-bikes are the perfect step up. For people who love the idea of driving electric cars, but want something with even less impact, e-bikes are the perfect step down.

It’s a perfect middle-of-the-road vehicle for people who want to protect the environment, but want a practical way to get from point A to point B.

The Rising Tide of Environmentalism

Though concern for the environment is still somewhat divided based on party lines in the United States, the rest of the world is becoming increasingly concerned with the preservation of our environment. Our most immediate threat is that of global climate change, spurred by the carbon emissions of manmade vehicles and electricity generation (as well as other sources, like factory farms). More people, worldwide, are interested in parking their combustion engine vehicles for good in favor of something better, but public transit and bicycles aren’t always practical. E-bikes came along at the perfect moment to capitalize on this trend of environmentalism.

Bikes Are En Vogue

Bicycles, in general, are becoming more popular. Part of this is due to the environmental trend; people are looking for less environmentally impactful ways to travel, and bikes are a handy, accessible way to do it. But there are other factors to consider, too; over the past couple of decades, breakthroughs in technology, engineering, and manufacturing have made bicycles sleeker, less expensive, more comfortable, and overall, more efficient, driving more people to use them. And on top of that, many major cities around the world have invested millions of dollars to make their cities more friendly to bicycle commuters. E-bikes naturally see a bump in popularity stemming from this wave of consumer interest.

Celebrity Endorsements

It also hasn’t hurt that e-bikes have gotten some key celebrity endorsements. For example, Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton recently launched her own e-bike, and Olympic gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy has also spoken up about the advantages and entertainment value of riding an e-bike. All it takes is a handful of key influencers for a given demographic to spark interest in a new type of product.

Appeals to Broader Audiences

Speaking of interest in a new type of product, e-bike manufacturers are also making a concentrated effort to appeal to broader audiences, making e-bikes seem cool or practical to a larger number of people. For example, they’ve begun to introduce more diverse models, with some focusing on efficiency, some focusing on power, and some focusing entirely on style. The right marketing campaign and the right salespeople can find the perfect fit for any of these models, ultimately driving sales higher.

E-bike manufacturers have been enjoying (and pushing) their newfound popularity, so it’s unlikely the trend will die down anytime soon. Thanks to a unique combination of cultural factors, and filling the perfect niche between a standard bicycle and an electric car, e-bikes have finally caught on all over the world. If you haven’t yet ridden one, consider giving it a chance.

This post was sponsored by Vintage Electric Bikes; image from the company