Vancouverites, it’s time to take a serious look at e-bikes.
So, why an e-bike?
I don’t really want to drive. I never have. I ride a conventional bike to work and consistently deal with the obvious concerns about safety, the rain and sweat. Cycling has worked out well for my family; keeping us healthy, active and outdoors.
The clincher came when was my youngest son decided he wanted to play hockey. Anyone who is a hockey parent knows that this means dragging a child around town with a hockey bag as big as they are. So what do you do if you don’t want to drive?
This question nagged me through numerous unreciprocated hockey car pools. I wanted to find a sustainable solution – other than transit – where I could be the one to take my son to the rink.
Why an e-bike? I had to do my homework.
What makes an e-bike
Essentially all e-bikes have an integrated electric motor and pedals. They use rechargeable batteries and reach speeds up to 32 km/hour and distances up to 80km. E-bikes are either pedal-assist, called “pedelec”, where the motor is regulated by pedaling, or power-on-demand or “twist-n-go” where the bike is activated by a throttle.
There are a few styles of e-bikes: scooter style, three-wheelers, city, mountain, folding, and cargo bikes. Another way to look at E-bike categories is by “use case” according to Michael Graham Richard from ElectricBikeReview.com, these include: cargo hauling, relaxed cruising, trail riding, mountain biking, downhill, neighborhood use, kid hauling and grocery getting, road bike, sand and snow (fat tire), tandem, touring or trekking, traveling (folding) and urban commuting. The e-bike that “spoke to me” was Pedego’s new electric cargo bike, the Pedego Stretch, which allows for a single passenger and/or cargo of up to 400lbs.
Once you have a dog you start to notice dogs in your neighbourhood; have a new baby and find yourself surrounded by new moms; but the same can’t be said about e-bikes in Vancouver. I’ve seen two in as many months.
E-bike sales in Europe are booming. Tens of millions of e-bikes are already on the road in China. E-bike sales in Canada were steadily rising until plateauing in 2011 – many blame this on the recession. Some say North America is still very much in the early-adopter stage.
So why aren’t more Vancouverites embracing E-bikes?
With our Greenest City initiative, a mild climate and cycling infrastructure, we appear to have all the ingredients for a thriving e-bike culture. So why are we so slow to adopt them?
I went to see Jamie Chassie at Cit-E-Cyles for some information. I asked him why he felt Vancouver was slow to respond to the e-bike hype. He suggests:
- Vancouverites are proud cyclists and feel they don’t need an electric bicycle, and consequently project that thought or belief onto any friend, family member or stranger that brings up the topic of e-bikes;
- Most local bike shop staff and bike mechanics don’t like e-bikes (yet), making it hard to sell a product they are not enthusiastic about;
- The price – a good electric bicycle is expensive and the thought of spending more than $2000 on a bicycle can be overwhelming to some;
- The perception of quality. Previously, the market was saturated with low quality, entry-level e-bikes leaving many early adopters experiencing problems and issues with no service providers.
I can understand the reasons you may not want to ride a conventional bike to work. There are the same concerns about safety, the weather and arriving to work sweaty. While e-bikes can’t avoid safety issues or weather, they can certainly take the sweat out of the equation, plus there are other benefits to e-riding in the city that far outweigh any of trivial inconveniences.
Top ten reasons to try an e-bike.
Here are ten reasons to buy an electric bicycle and move beyond that bike pride and your car keys.
- Get outside, even when it’s raining. We can easily pile on the rain gear without over heating. With e-bikes there is no sweat unless you want to make some.
- Remove some of the physical barriers of cycling. Challenging hill climbs and/or long distances can be discouraging depending on your fitness level. E-bikes don’t make you a cheater or lazy. You are in control of how much energy you (and your e-bike) exert. E-bikes can help turn occasional riders into daily riders. 55 percent of e-bike users rode their conventional bike weekly or daily before purchase, rising to 93% after purchasing an e-bike. E-bikes are also great for seniors.
- E-bike quality has improved. Buy a well-established brand name and you will be assured years of enjoyment. Enjoy better battery life, reliable motors, and great warranty and service.
- No license required. The motor vehicle branch classifies e-bikes the same as motorized scooters so you don’t need special insurance – your regular house insurance will do.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. E-bikes are green. With rechargeable batteries and people-power, you can get pretty much anywhere a car can take you on zero emissions.
- Save some money. Cars cost more. A typical car will run you $20,000 whereas an e-bike will set you back $2000 to $3000.
- Reduce maintenance costs. Owning and operating costs are also much cheaper, averaging $5,267 for a car per year versus a mere $260 per year to maintain an e-bike.
- No problems with parking. You can park e-bikes anywhere you park a bike – for free – perfect for the urban commuter, as you will never have to spend time searching and paying for costly parking spots.
- Get around the city faster. An e-bike offers the maneuverability and flexibility to get around faster. No more getting caught in traffic plus the ride will elevate your mood rather that induce road-based frustration.
- It’s fun and safe. Nothing beats the feeling of riding a new bike. E-bikes are a great way to keep exercise simple and safe.
E-Bikes offer the same benefits as conventional pedal bikes, including improved health and wellness, plus you get outdoors, connecting with your community more often. If you haven’t given one a try yet, you should.
Vancouverites, it’s time to take a serious look at e-bikes.
by Marian Lucas Lane