This week, Canadians are being asked to get to work without driving solo. My commute is a little more than 40-kilometre round trip — an inconvenient haul on transit, too far to cycle and I can’t find anyone committed to carpooling. So I called the folks at Green City Motors, got hooked up with an electric bicycle and found my answer to the commuter challenge.
I’m wary of cycling in the city and haven’t done much of it. My heart was pounding when I strapped on my bicycle helmet and hit the streets of Southwood bound for my office in West Hillhurst. Then I engaged the throttle and left the fear behind.
Electric bicycles can do a couple things — assist you while you pedal or propel you entirely. These bicycles are an option for those of us with a lengthy commute that might not be prepared to sweat it out self-propelled. E-bikes aren’t about exhibiting one’s physical prowess; rather, they offer a viable alternative to the car.
I don’t want much to do with my car since I discovered e-bikes. My commute takes less than an hour and it’s fun. My ride is unrestricted — I can chose my path passing the Elbow and Bow rivers, numerous parks, and historic houses I wouldn’t otherwise see. I’m not stuck in traffic and I’m not producing harmful emissions. I feel like a bit of a rock star zipping up hills and, at times, keeping pace with traffic.
E-bikes can go as fast as 32 km/h. Most come equipped with lithium batteries that range about 50 kilometres before a charge is needed, which takes a few hours plugged into a regular 110-volt wall socket. They don’t require a licence and they’re simple to operate. Europeans and Asians, rooted in strong cycling cultures, have embraced the e-bike, with 120 million in China alone.
That first ride into work took a little longer than expected as I got turned around a few times. Returning home, I met a fellow named Stuart heading south as well. He commutes every day on his bike (self-propelled) and showed me a more direct route back.
The ride home was beautiful. The sun glistened off the Elbow River and the air was sweet with the fragrance of lilacs. Stuart wondered aloud why more people don’t commute like this. With a bit of electrical assistance, I’m wondering now, too.
Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.