I’ve been a cyclist for quite a few years. Although I got into it almost by accident, I’ve since commuted by bike, toured around New Zealand and the United States on two wheels, and now use it in all aspects of my life. I’ve become convinced that riding a bike truly is one of the best ways of getting around—in terms of health, cost, and impact on the environment.
That said, I’ve found that there is a lot of resistance to cycling whenever I preach the benefits of a bike to non-cyclists. After all, there is a reason why only one percent of the urban commuters in the U.S. actually commute by bike, while others choose the car or other means of transportation.
The most common response that I hear is that people would like to ride a bicycle more but find it impractical or impossible for themselves because of hills, distance, fitness levels, health reasons, or even the inconvenience of having to shower and change at work—the list goes on.
These are all real reasons and, if we are really serious about getting more people on bikes, it’s important to find a way to get around them.
So, as a step in that direction, a few years ago, I co-founded an electric bicycle company to develop and offer people hybrid electric bikes that address these problems.
An electric bicycle is a hybrid. It’s primarily powered by human power, but has a small motor and a battery integrated into the frame to give the rider power-on-demand in a form of a boost on the hills, against headwind or just to make them cover long distances faster.
The great part is that electric bicycles are more all-inclusive—regardless of fitness level or age, a cyclist can pedal at their own comfort level and not worry about the terrain or becoming too tired to get back. It’s almost as if somebody is giving you a gentle push from behind when you need a little help.
While electric bikes are incredibly popular in Asia and Europe—selling more than 30 million per year overseas—they are just starting to become more common in the United States. So, to get the electric bicycles into the U.S. mainstream and really position them as a viable option for commuting in urban areas, we have launched a new annual initiative called the 30-Day Electric Bike Challenge.
Under this initiative, we have invited folks in major cities all over the U.S. to give up their car keys for a month in order to try out an electric bicycle for transportation to work and getting around town.
Since the launch, we’ve seen a really diverse range of participants. Stan, a participant from Denver, has joined the Challenge to see if an electric bike could replace his car for numerous trips to see clients in and around Denver. His goal is to avoid the sweaty look on arrival that the regular bike brings and the inevitable parking tickets he gets with his car.
Elsa from Berkeley decided to join the Challenge to help get back into an exercise regimen. An electric bike appealed to her because of lingering health concerns and a seriously hilly ride on the homebound commute (a steady climb for about half of the eight-mile ride).
Every participant has a story of what’s been keeping them from commuting by bike before, but also a real desire to make a change to a better, healthier, and more sustainable means of transportation.
For the 99 percent of the population who currently don’t use a bike for their transportation, electric bikes truly present an opportunity to finally ease into it and get around the barriers that have been holding them back.
Images courtesy of Evelo.
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