What could be greener (and more fun) than an electric bike? Leave a comment

If you have been following my columns this year, the primary question has been: “How do we get people out on bikes?” Whether for health and exercise, to enjoy the great outdoors, touring, or just to get to the store or work, I firmly believe the bicycle can and should be part of our way of life. Last month I wrote about one barrier, the lack of safe bike infrastructure, but what about other barriers? Some may not be confident on a bike, perhaps because of their age or level of physical fitness, or perhaps they feel challenged by the distance from home to work (or don’t want to arrive sweaty, that is totally me!).

Electric bikes, which have been popular in Europe for decades, especially with commuters, have been in the press lately about. Bike share programs in large cities and urban areas are increasingly utilizing e-bikes, catering to both commuters and tourists. E-bikes now come in a variety of sizes and styles, not just the heavier, commuter type. My neighbors in fact just bought recreational type e-bikes for their family of four and they love them. Cargo bikes are also great, allowing the rider to go get groceries and haul their kids along.

For serious cyclists, e-bikes had been frowned upon as “cheating.” Our own cycling club members, many advancing in age, were finding it increasingly difficult to keep up on group rides. Some have health problems that would otherwise keep them off the bike, like heart or joint issues. E-bikes had also been quite heavy, 40-50 pounds with large bulky battery pack, as opposed to an average road bike of 16 to 20 pounds. Technology has evolved and now a “road” style e-bike comes in at aro

And let’s be clear, these are not mopeds. There is no throttle, and in fact, the bike will not “go” on its own – these are pedal-assist bikes. They must be pedaled to move forward, so the rider is still getting a considerable degree of exercise. This means cyclists can keep riding and getting exercise as they age, and just about anyone can now join in on the fun. In case you are worried about the safety of such bike, these e-bikes also have a “governor” device which shuts off the assist once you get up to 20 mph for a Class 1 ebike (which is allowed on bike paths) or 28 mph for a Class 3 e-bike (which can use bike lanes).und 26 to 28 pounds and is almost indistinguishable from a regular road bike.

It all sounds great right? Well there is one problem: e-bikes are expensive, starting at about $1,500 and going up to $10,000. The good news is that there are several campaigns to increase the affordability and promote the use of e-bikes. The California Bicycle Coalition is promoting an e-bike incentive program to allocate $10 million in funding from California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to put 10,000 more e-bikes on the road, potentially replacing millions of car trips. The rationale is that E-bikes are the greenest electric vehicle out there and should have the same support from state programs as electric cars. You can sign their petition here, and get more information on other programs like the federal E-Bike act, in addition to wonderful e-bike stories, at the CalBike site here.

The Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition is also involved in e-bike incentives, partnering with Sonoma Clean Power’s Bike Electric eBike incentive program, providing free helmets and education. The program was so popular it is now closed, but hopefully will reopen soon. The Coalition is also continuing their fun “Bike2it” program which encourages biking rather than driving to everyday destinations. Stay tuned for information next month about National Bike Month in May.

As an aside, an amazing crew from Santa Rosa Cycling Club volunteered at a vaccine clinic held at the Samuel L. Jones Hall homeless shelter. This clinic was the result of a remarkable partnership representing community-helping-community!

Want to get into cycling or find out about cycling events? Contact me at bridgettedeshields@sbcglobal.net.

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