Electric Bikes: The other “EV”
Oregonians love our bicycles, but our bikes don’t always serve every need. Creaky knees and growing families can throw a wrench into an otherwise bike-friendly lifestyle.
With electric bikes a growing trend, Oregonians now have one more environmentally friendly option for getting where they want to go. E-bikes look like traditional bikes, but assist riders with a push from a cleverly concealed battery and small motor. The rider pedals, feels a whoosh of energy and propels forward safely, while being kind to the planet.
Casey Davis of Bend rides an e-bike to create a norm for her favorite passenger, her three-year-old son. “We can use our bodies to move around town, instead of just cars. It is fun, healthy…keeps carbon out of the air and allows us both to be outside rather than trapped inside a car.” Casey’s three-year-old knows the bike routes, understands traffic signals and laws, and even points out where things are along the way. “He sees and hears what’s going on around us and he’s much more connected to his environment. It has been a life changer, for sure.”
One of Oregon Environmental Council’s goals is to create life-long walkers, bicyclists and transit riders. To protect our planet, all of us need to get around on healthier, safer and non- or less-polluting forms of transportation. E-bikes fit right into this eco-friendly paradigm. Anyone 16 and over may ride one. They travel in bike lanes, don’t require a license and follow the same road rules as any other bicycle.
E-bikes give the rider and passengers a smooth stable ride while they travel at up to twenty miles per hour, the current legal speed limit. E-bikes remove some of our physical limitation, and the resulting freedom is exhilarating. “I get huge smiles from passersby,” says Casey, who recalls two women who recently waved and yelled out their car window, “You are awesome! Way to go, mom!”
E-bikes are also a little addictive, even to people who see themselves as traditional cyclists. “…the e-bike had me out riding more than ever,” said Aaron Gulley of Outside Magazine. “It’s here to stay and it’s totally rad.” That’s backed-up by the Transportation Education and Research Center at Portland State University that found weekly bike ridership went up from 55 percent to 93 percent after riders got an e-bike.
E-bikes keep our state beautiful, too. Drive Oregon says a car produces 2936 pounds of CO2 annually. By contrast, an e-bike produces only a half-pound over an entire year. And e-bikes operate at a fraction of a car’s expenses at 35 dollars per month instead of 884 dollars per month. E-bikes offer new benefits to current bike riders and new opportunity to potential riders who were stymied by distance, terrain, the need to lug cargo and limiting health problems. By bringing new riders into the equation, e-bike ridership will enhance Oregon’s reputation as a transportation innovator.
The full-power boost from the e-bike’s electric engine sends the rider up steep inclines at four times the power they would have on their own. Headwinds become less of a barrier. And riders can carry kids, briefcases, groceries, laundry, backpacks, anything, up to fifty pounds. And arrive at their destination less sweaty. Robin Lewis of Bend says, “My favorite cargo bike adventure was picking up eight giant pizzas for the city public works crew after they finished a long stretch of work and transporting this tall stack of pizzas down Hwy 20/Greenwood Avenue on my e-bike!”
E-bikes have been around since the 1990s says John MacArthur, Research Associate at the Transportation Research and Education Center. “But now technology’s finally at a point where costs are coming down and the products are better. That means a lot of potential.” Today’s new e-bikes are all about the rider. They deliver all their potential, while letting the rider decide exactly how to ride. The rider controls the balance of human and electric power and how long to make the battery charge last.
E-bikes have long range. Most people ride about 50 miles on one battery charge. Pushed to the extreme, uphill, with maximum electric output and low pedal power, e-bikes travel 15 miles before the battery empties. But riders able to pedal steadily with low electric assist reach up to 75 miles on a single charge. Recharging the battery requires a simple power outlet, the same as a desk lamp or a toaster and takes four to six hours to recharge. A battery usually lasts for 700-1000 charges before it needs to be replaced.
Bike stores across Oregon, including Portland, Salem, Eugene, Bend, Corvallis, Grants Pass and Ashland now carry and repair e-bikes. Oregon’s growing demand will bring even more widespread availability as brands like GenZe, which is available online and in stores, join the retail front as well. Many bike shops also rent e-bikes so you can try out the e-bike experience for a few hours to a few days. All offer test drives.
“When people come back from a test drive they’re grinning from ear to ear. It’s a big wow,” says Jerry Solomon, founder of Ashland Electric Bikes. “They come back with the wheels turning, thinking about so many more opportunities to bike than when they came into the store. It’s gratifying for me. Every e-bike out there is a car left parked more often.”
E-joy the ride!