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Going Green: Pedaling Not Required

Could E-Bikes Be the Transportation Solution We Need?


The City of Santa Barbara recently adopted a bicycle master plan to improve safety and balance between the various modes of transportation in the city. Also under consideration is a Vision Zero program, a collaborative effort to end all traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

One of the newer and faster growing options among transportation choices is the electric bicycle or e-bike. E-bikes offer greater speed and distance with less exertion than conventional cycling for those who don’t want to arrive at work or events dripping with sweat. Rolling on an e-bike frequently reduces travel time over that of a regular bike by a good third and often even beats car travel, especially during rush-hour traffic.

Sales of e-bikes have been booming in recent years while experiencing double-digit growth in 2015. It is estimated that the industry will have revenues of almost $25 billion in 2025 as compared to just over $15 billion this past year. Lower-cost technology, high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, and digital feedback components account for some of this increased popularity. Top speeds achieve between 20 and 30 miles per hour.

Prices for e-bikes range from $500-$10,000. Gentle pedaling lets e-bikes get more miles per electric charge, extending travel distances while getting a light workout. The higher-priced machines can get around 100 miles per charge with assisted pedaling. One of the great features, as S.B. optometrist Larry Bickford said in a recent email, is that you can “pedal and get exercise to the exact degree of effort and sweat you desire,” or you can just ride effortlessly, using only the electric motor. Hills are no obstacles for e-bikes.

As with any biking, safety is a concern, and e-bikes have the additional safety issue of cars not being used to bikes accelerating quickly or traveling at 20 mph or more.

E-biking offers a healthy, non-polluting option to many more people — workers with daily commutes, older people, people buying groceries, parents shuffling children to school or events, people with limited mobility, etc.

No longer the owner of a car, I walk, bike, or get rides with friends to conduct my daily activities. Hopefully I will be able to continue this way for another decade, but at 75 years of age, one never knows. Whenever my next change comes, however, an e-bike will be a part of my next transportation chapter.

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