Women riding electric bikes

“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self- reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel ... It is well known that male cyclists outnumber female cyclists pretty much everywhere. Research indicates this has much to do with safety: cycling is perceived as unsafe, and because of this, many women don’t want to cycle (perhaps because of a sense of responsibility towards the many people that most women take care of).This is very unfortunate, not least because bike riding is so liberating (as Susan B.Anthony noticed a long time ago). In this respect, I have a lot of hope for the potential of electric bikes.An electric bike is less dangerous than a regular bike. As soon as you start riding one, you will notice how the ability to quickly accelerate, and to occasionally keep up with motorised traffic, both help to keep you out of danger. You are less likely to be rear ended because motorists have more time to see you. Intersections are the scene of most collisions, and the fast acceleration of electric bikes gets you out of the danger zone faster.The fewer cars have to overtake you, the safer you are. Plus, because you have power to help you go up hills, you don’t have the temptation to go downhill at high speeds to get your speed up for the upcoming ascent – definitely a useful safety feature. Also, cyclists on electric bikes are more likely to stop at stop signs and red lights, because they have the power to easily pull off again. Also, the power source on electric bike is often used to power lights and horns.You can have a bike light that is 20 times stronger than a regular bike light, which of course makes you much more visible and hence much safer. In case you’re reading this and thinking that nothing will make bikes safer than cars, consider this: cars are the number one killer of people under 35 in the USA (including children). The danger posed by cars is so extreme that some people have suggested that cars should carry warning labels, just as cigarettes do. Easy Hill Climbing Most electric cyclists remember the first time they ever tackled a serious hill. It’s a wonderful moment, a sudden feeling of almost superhuman ability. Electric bikes flatten hills out, so that the cyclist does not have to dread them. Depending on the power of your bike, you may still have to put in a fair amount of effort – but it will be much less than when doing hills without an electric assist. As an older cyclist, when I first started cycling I often had to resort to the embarrassing get-off-and-push manoeuvre, but once I got an electric bike that became a thing of the past. Even in the incredibly hilly area in which I live, I never have to dismount and push. Save Money Most people need some form of transport. In the Western world this is often a private car, occupied most of the time by just one person.The cost of this luxury is enormous, and in fact cars are usually the second biggest expense in most people’s budgets (after housing). Imagine the vacations you could afford if you could massively reduce this enormous expense. An electric bike will enable you to be completely or partly car-free, which will enable enormous savings. It is true that buying an electric bike will cost you more than buying a regular bike.Your upkeep costs will be much the same as for a regular bike, but for electric bikes, an extra expense comes from battery depreciation – they don’t last forever, and the replacement cost for a good battery is usually pretty high. Thus, all in all, electric bikes are definitely more expensive to run than regular bikes. However, once the running costs of electric bikes are compared to cars or even transit, the picture is much brighter. Electric bikes are definitely the most fuel- efficient mode of transport in everyday use. In fact, some people have done the math to prove that electric bikes are more fuel-efficient than humans. One thing is for sure: it is cheaper to run my electric bike than to run a car. I don’t even notice the cost of recharging my battery on my electric bill – it’s basically negligible. No one can say that about the cost of gas for a car. And of course I recharge the battery at work, at negligible cost to my employer. This is a very different scenario from the years of expensive car-owning I have gone through. Most of us are seduced by the ads that tell us that a shiny new car will cost us just a couple of hundred dollars a month. However, this does not factor in all of the following costs:

  • A high cost price, no matter how you pay it.You could buy the most expensive electric bike on the planet, and it would still only cost about half the price of the cheapest new car. My own high-end electric bike cost 10% of what my last car cost (around $3,000 for the bike and $30,000 for the car).

  • High insurance costs

  • Constantly increasing gas prices

  • High and sometimes crippling repair charges (on my last car, just replacing the clutch cost $2,000 – I could have bought a very good electric bike for that price.)

  • High maintenance charges for services and oil changes Young people in particular have to pay very high vehicle insurance prices, so they could save thousands of dollars and get around more quickly in cities by choosing an electric bike. In 2010 it was calculated that the running costs of a car are 60 times the running cost of an electric bike – and the cost of running cars is climbing steeply due to the relentlessly rising cost of gas. Urban cities are becoming more and more congested and difficult to navigate in cars. On an electric bike, you move around quickly and cheaply, and park for free. So you will also avoid the cost of parking tickets. For most people the thought of surviving without a personal car is daunting, and many people believe it is entirely impossible but there are other options, For example, renting a car once a month for a day of shopping would cost just a tiny fraction of what it costs to own a car all the time. Motorised, but no Red Tape In most jurisdictions electric bikes are regarded as regular bicycles, so you are not forced to get a license, or to pay taxes and insurance.You cannot be convicted for cycling under the influence of alcohol, either (although it is NOT a good idea to drink and cycle).You can take out insurance on your bike, and for third-party liability, and personally I would recommend it. But unlike almost everything to do with cars, it’s optional. Because electric bikes are categorised as bicycles, they can be ridden in bike lanes and on bike routes, giving riders a huge advantage over cars. Note: you should be aware of the prevailing legislation in your own country, as there are some differences. For example, speed limits and power limitations are different in different countries. Saving the World, One Commute at a Time ... “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” (H.G.Wells, novelist)

I am very happy to reduce my carbon footprint by riding an electric bike most of the time. Every time I do a trip on my electric bike instead of a car, I feel like a green warrior, doing my tiny bit to preserve the planet for the upcoming generations. Of course, we live in a society that has been structured around motorised transport. This makes it close to impossible to avoid cars completely – for example when I'm teaching a child to cycle I have to take the car with the Bike on the back. On the other hand, there are many situations in which one might think one needs a car, but really doesn’t. For example, I saw a bike parked outside a local coffee bar the other day.The bike had a home-made trailer attached, and the trailer contained a large dog and a pile of shopping. Clearly the owner of that bike did not let the fact that he had to transport a dog and groceries deter him from using a bike. And that was just a regular bike, not even an electric bike. Sights like that make me resolve to reduce my dependency on cars even more. Using electric bikes to get your children to school. The extra weight of the child in a bike seat or trailer is offset by the power of the engine. It is true that there are some inefficiencies in the production and distribution of electricity. However, the impact on the environment per mile of an electric bike remains negligible compared to the impact of a car. In fact, the amount of electricity required to run an electric bike is so low that it is feasible that in the future we will be able to recharge them with home-based solar power units.This would never suffice for the massive energy needs of a car. It is surprising but true that electric bike power actually has less impact on the environment than human power. This surprised me, as I assumed that I have zero emissions (apart from the usual biological functions). However, once one factors in all the energy and emissions that comprise our food chain, it appears that producing human energy in a person eating a typical Western diet does in fact result in significant emissions – up to five times as much as result from producing and running an electric bike. (Remember that in order for us to have enough energy to ride a regular bike or walk, an entire chain of activities is required, including farming, transport, refrigeration and cooking.) In short, human power is not as green as one might think, while the electric bike is the greenest, most efficient transport mode we have.


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