E-bikes make it possible for people of all ages, abilities, and incomes to get around town via a carbon-free means of transportation. And it is good exercise.
As a kid, I rode a bike to and from school and around our neighborhood. Back then, I never thought of bike riding as being an environmentally friendly transportation method or that it was a form of exercise. For me riding a bike was about freedom and fun.
There was never a time when I did not own a bike but as the years passed I rode less and less. I held onto my last bike for years because I had every intention of getting back into the habit of riding it…someday.
Driving a Car to Take a Walk
I thought my bike riding aspirations might become a reality when my spouse and I moved from Southern California to Cambria a small town on the California Central Coast.
Situated on the edge of the Pacific Ocean two miles from our house sits the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve a beautiful swath of land crisscrossed with hiking paths. It seemed like it would be a wonderful place to take a daily walk (it is). I naively thought we would ride our bikes there, take a walk, and ride back home. The daily walks materialized but the biking riding did not.
I blame our driveway.
Our house is perched at the end of a long steep driveway (with a turn halfway up) that we share with our next-door neighbor. It leads onto a steep street. Driving my car up the driveway the first time was a daunting experience that has only gotten moderately less so in the twelve years that we have lived here. Riding a human only powered bike up these asphalt inclines was and still is not within my ability.
I remember one of my sons said to me some years ago something along the lines of “Isn’t it hypocritical for you to drive a car someplace so you can go for a walk?”
No, I do not think it is hypocritical. Environmentalists are people, too. We do not always make environmentally friendly choices and we also know how to justify our actions (just like everyone else).
In May 2013, while I was writing a post about National Bike Month, I became interested in trying bike riding again. But I did not do it. Occasionally, since then, I have looked longingly at my bike hanging upside down from a rafter in our garage.
But the driveway and street have persisted in their steepness. It seemed more and more likely that my bike riding days had come to an end.
Then I discovered electric bikes.
National Drive Electric Week
I think I had been aware that electric bikes existed but I had not really thought about one in conjunction with myself until I joined the SLO Climate Coalition.
Last summer the Coalition’s decarbonized transportation team was preparing to host two events in San Luis Obispo for National Drive Electric Week that would showcase electric cars and electric bikes. To support the team, I wrote a post entitled Electric Vehicles are Good for People and the Environment with information about U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, electric cars and bikes, and National Drive Electric Week.
Researching this topic had me pondering the possibility of riding a bike again.
My spouse and I are striving to live more lightly on Earth and to reduce our transportation carbon footprint. So far this has mostly been accomplished by working out of our home, combining errands, and walking as many places as possible.
We have not replaced our gasoline-powered cars with electric versions because we are hoping that other transportation methods will make car ownership obsolete and besides it does not fit within our current budget.
I got to thinking “Maybe we could ride electric bikes for all the stuff we need to do where we live and to places where we like to walk.” My vision expanded to “And we could take bikes on the bus to San Luis Obispo and then ride them to run errands, go to meetings and appointments, and for fun and other activities.”
Determined to test ride an electric bike, I marked my calendar for the Ride & Drive event scheduled for Saturday, September 14.
First, I tried an electric bike from BoltAbout that was similar to the model they lease with an option to buy. After not having been on a bike for many years, I was pleased that I did not fall off. When the pedal-assist motor kicked in, I zoomed by the people in the parking lot checking out the electric cars.
At Wally’s booth, I spotted a bike that looked easier for me to get on and off so I asked if I could try that one. It was a Votani electric bike. The seat was comfy and I could see and work the controls. What I really liked was being able to sit up straight while riding it. After a couple of circuits around the parking lot, I was thinking “This is the bike I want.” We thanked Wally and took one of his business cards.
Testing an E-Bike at Home
Now, I was seriously considering buying an electric bike but I did not want to buy a bike until I had tried riding it up and down our driveway and the street.
The next week we showed up at Wally’s Bicycle Works store in San Luis Obispo. Wally remembered us. I asked him if I could rent the Votani bike for a week. He let me do it free of charge.
At home, I dusted off my bike helmet and then proved to myself that I could ride the bike down and up our driveway and the street. Going down was terrifying and going up was difficult. I figured it would get easier as I rode more and got in better bike riding shape.
One day during the test week, coming up the driveway, I crashed into the curb and fell off. An instant before I hit the ground, I knew I was falling but there was not a thing I could do about it. My spouse came running down the driveway. Laying there I could feel myself going into shock. I was badly hurt.
I will spare you the gruesome details but I had some serious cuts on my left knee and elbow and the next day enormous bruised patches appeared all over the left side of my body. It took weeks for me to heal and I will have some nasty looking scars on my knee forever.
I am definitely not someone who enjoys tacking chances with my body so it would have not been out of character for me to take the bike back to Wally’s and call it day.
Strangely, I was more determined than ever to buy an electric bike and to learn how to ride it. I had been afraid of falling off and getting hurt. But now that I had fallen off and gotten hurt, it was as if I had overcome some kind of mental hurdle. I did not need to worry about it anymore because it had already happened.
A few days later we took the demo bike back to Wally’s and he ordered a new one for me. My spouse walked out of the store that day pushing a Raleigh electric bike equipped with saddlebags.
A week later I picked up my new electric bike and that is when the adventure really began. If you are interested, you can read about it in the next post.
Start your own electric bike adventure by visiting a local bike shop or bike-share kiosk and taking one for a spin.
Featured Image at Top: An electric bike control panel is shown mounted on the handlebars – photo credit iStock/123ducu.
- Ditch Your Car for the Day and Take the Bus
- Green Travel – Aboard the Amtrak Coast Starlight Train
- Green Travel – Take the Bus
- Green Travel – Take the Train
- May is National Bike Month – Get Back on Your Bike
- Walking – Good for the Planet and Good for You – Benefits
- Walking – Pedometer versus Fitness Tracker
- Your Individual Climate Actions Matter and this is Why