Nearly half the car trips in the United States are 3 miles or less, and more than one quarter are less than one mile. Mile for mile, these short trips are also the most polluting. Engines running cold produce four times the carbon monoxide and two times the volatile organic compounds of engines running hot. These trips are also the easiest to replace with a bike or walk trip.
Walking and biking to conduct errands and nearby business meetings are great ways to reduce your carbon footprint. But the extra time for walking and the exertion caused by biking is not always practical during the work day. That’s why some people are turning to the electric bicycle as a solution for reducing unnecessary motor vehicle use.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Bend office recently rented an electric-assisted bicycle from Bend Electric Bikes, a local retail business that sells electric bicycles. The idea was hatched by local ODOT staff as a way to facilitate employee travel to local business destinations that would not be practical with a non-power assisted bicycle due to either distance or time constraints.
Another part of the ODOT plan was to encourage bicycling by employees during the work day to introduce a more sustainable transportation method that they may use for commuting and in other daily activities. The electric bicycle was chosen because it is easy to operate and may be used by people of all ages and fitness levels.
The electric bicycle also takes much of the physical work out of bicycling. “Riding through Bend, the largest fatigue savings is being able to start moving again after stopping at signals or stop signs,” said Pat Creedican, local ODOT Operations Manager. “You will really notice the difference in ease of starting from a stop position and also the energy saved in getting up to speed. Once up to speed it is relatively easy to maintain the speed without the motor,” he said.
“The electric bike is a bicycle that has a unique drive system. It requires some effort by the rider, but the power is augmented by a small, light electric motor,” said Sterling McCord, owner of Bend Electric Bikes. The electric bicycles sold at his shop at 550 SW Industrial Way are powered by a lithium battery, charged by plugging in to a 110 volt receptacle.
Electric bicycles are much more efficient than gas-powered vehicles, and far less polluting. For every 500 miles an electric bike is used in place of a car, an average of 25 gallons of fuel is saved, preventing an estimated 3 pounds of hydrocarbons, 25 pounds of carbon monoxide, and 2 pounds of nitrogen oxides in pollutants.
Buying an electric bike for personal or employee use is a relatively small expense for anyone who wants to cut down on motor vehicle use. A single passenger electric bicycle with a lithium battery at Bend Electric Bikes costs between $1000 and $2000. Licensing, registration and insurance are not required for electric bicycle owners, so neither are the associated fees.
“If your work day commute is short, and where weather and circumstances allow, an electric bicycle is certainly worth considering as an alternative way of getting to work,” said Jeff Monson, executive director of Commute Options.
Commute Options promotes choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information about Commute Options, contact Jeff Monson, Executive Director of Commute Options at 541-330-2647 or visit www.commuteoptions.org.
Annissa Anderson is a freelance writer and PR consultant in Bend.
Seven Good Reasons to Ride an Electric Bike
1. No bureaucracy
An electric bicycle, like a pedaled bicycle, does not require a license, registration or insurance to ride it.
2. Free parking
If you work in a downtown area, finding and paying for a parking space can be half the battle. An electric bicycle can often be parked right outside your work place at no cost, just like a conventional bicycle.
3. Quicker commuting
Anybody that spends most of their daily commute in slowed traffic or standing at a bus stop should seriously consider getting an electric bicycle.
4. Cheap transportation
Riding an electric bicycle means spending only a fraction of the cost it takes to fuel, maintain and insure a motor vehicle.
5. It’s green
With zero emissions at the tailpipe, an electric bicycle is a low-impact form of transportation.
6. Stay fit
An electric bike can still be pedaled while using the power of the motor to take the strain out of hills, headwinds and startups, arriving at your destination energized, but without aching legs.
7. No sweat
Commuting to work on a conventional bicycle is a workout, which for some people requires a change of clothing and/or shower upon arrival at work. If locker room facilities are unavailable in the work place, commuting by electric bike will take the sweat out of your commute.