What’s it like cycling an electric bicycle?

Electric bicycles are just like ordinary bicycles, with one exception: an electric motor to help you along when you need it. In an ordinary bicycle when you come to a hill you have to push harder. On an electric bicycle the motor will push harder instead.

This makes electric bicycles ideal for Cork’s hilly environment. Even on the flat, an electric bicycle makes gliding along effortless, even when it’s windy.


Teresa Watkins of Youghal, Co. Cork cycling her electric bicycle in Youghal town centre.
Teresa Watkins cycling her electric bicycle in Youghal.

In towns and the city, because you have the added power of the electric motor, you’ll find that you can start at traffic lights and junctions as quick as a car. The second you start pedalling your electric assistance motor kicks in getting you away swiftly in situations when you need it.

There are no speed limits for when you are cycling your electric bicycle, but the motors on electric bicycles are capped at 25km/h. You will be able cycle faster but the electric motor will no longer help you. Generally, your electric bicycle will reach the 25km/h very easily, especially on the flat. Going downhill you will go much faster even without pedaling.

Cycle infrastructure

Infographic on cycling infrastructure from CMATS.
Cycling infrastructure plans for Cork.

You can cycle an electric bicycle on both the road as normal or in dedicated bicycle lanes. This means cycling and electric bicycle is both quick and safe. At traffic jams, electric bicycles can “filter” through traffic to skip to the top of the queue and wait in a dedicated advanced stop box or “bike box”.

Both Cork City Council and Cork County Council are making headway in rolling out more dedicated cycling infrastructure, like bicycle lanes and bicycle parking. Existing infrastructure is also being upgraded to account for more people using bicycles, including electric bicycles. The latest transport strategy for the Cork metropolitan area (CMATS) envisions over 500km of cycle ways to be built between now and 2040.

Dedicated bike parking is also increasingly available throughout Cork and is now often included as a condition of planning for new buildings.

Bus and train

One of the joys of commuting by electric bicycle is that you don’t just have to cycle. You can use your electric bicycle to travel to the train or bus station then complete your journey by public transport. Bicycle parking at train and bus stations is free. You can even take your electric bicycle on the bus or train.

On commuter train services in Cork, you can take an electric bicycle on for free during off-peak times. In practice, if it’s not too crowded, staff won’t prevent you bringing a bicycle during peak times also. On mainline trains, electric bicycles are also free but it’s advisable to book in advance. A fold-up electric bicycle can be taken on the commuter and mainline trains at any time.

Bus Éireann Expressway services will carry electric bicycles in the luggage compartment of the bus. There is a €10 fee for a full-size bicycle and no fee for fold-up bicycle. City bus services will not take a full-size electric bicycle but will take a fold-up electric bicycle if there’s room in the luggage compartment on the bus. Private bus companies will generally accommodate electric bicycles too but you will need to check in advance.

Road safety

Cover of RSA Cycle Safety booklet
RSA Cycle Safety booklet

You don’t have to take a test to ride an electric bicycle but cycling is governed by the Rules of the Road. It’s a very good idea to read up on the Rules of the Road before going out on your electric bicycle.

The law requires all bicycles to have a front and back reflector and if you are outside after lighting up time, you must have a front and rear light as well.

You don’t have to wear a helmet but many riders do to protect them in the case of a fall. Likewise, you don’t have to wear high visibility clothing but many riders do to increase their visibility to other road users.

Join up with others

The Cork Cycling Campaign is the main advocacy group for cyclists in Cork. The group represent cyclists in discussions with Cork city and county councils. The Cork Cycling Campaign is a stakeholder to we-bike also.

The group gives community support and advice to new cyclists. They have produced a handy cycling map of Cork. They are free to join and offer a wealth of experience and tips for cyclists new and old.