Imagine a new way of commuting to work. You pedal across Bend with ease, not noticing that you’re climbing up the Olney Avenue hill. You arrive at work after 20 minutes of fresh air and physical activity, yet you never broke a sweat or had to stop and catch your breath. On your way home that afternoon, you decide at the last minute to ride your bike up to the top of Pilot Butte to catch a view of the sunset. Instead of huffing and puffing up the steep hill, you arrive to the top feeling refreshed.
If this sounds inviting, then a pedal assist electric bike might be right for you. Pedal assist electric bikes, commonly known as e-bikes, are the current revolution in cycling technology. Globally, they are a rapidly growing market, and in Europe, many people are purchasing e-bikes instead of automobiles. While many European countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and France have long embraced them, people in the United States are just now starting to realize the benefits of electric bikes.
Pedal assist e-bikes are not like a motorcycle or a moped because they don’t have an accelerator throttle. An e-bike is very much like a conventional bike with a small electric motor that helps to turn the cranks around as you pedal. Many e-bikes have different settings for the amount of assistance that it gives the rider. Pedaling an e-bike is a unique feeling, and hard to describe to someone who has never tried one.
In Oregon, e-bikes are designated as “electric assisted bicycles” and are regulated like bicycles, so the rider must follow the same traffic laws that apply to bicycles, such as no riding on sidewalks. E-bikes in Oregon are also required to not exceed a speed of 20-miles-per-hour and most have electronic controls that allow the rider to select the desired level of assistance.
E-bikes level the playing field for mobility because they can help older people or less mobile people ride a bike to work, or make a longer commute more manageable. They also allow the rider to carry more weight and some e-bikes are built specially for carrying cargo, with large cargo racks or baskets. Parents can also add trailers or seats for the kiddos, making the commute to school more fun.
Bend resident Suzanne Johnson is an e-bike commuter. “I bought my electric bike when I began working downtown and found it’s the happiest way to get around town, especially on high traffic days. The ability to start quickly from a total stop makes entering roundabouts easy because you can accelerate into smaller openings,” says Johnson.
Courtney Van Fossan from Bend Electric Bikes adds, “Electric bikes expand the possibilities of how we get around in our cities. That means we can choose a transportation option that improves traffic congestion, air quality, mobility, physical/mental health and simply makes the joy of riding a bike even more enjoyable. This is already a reality for many Central Oregonians and increasingly more are making this choice.”
Energize your ride by learning more about e-bikes at Bend’s two electric bike shops, Bend Electric Bikes (bendelectricbikes.com) Pedego Electric Bikes (pedegoelectricbikes.com).
Promoting choices that reduce the impacts of driving alone. For more information, contact Executive Director Jeff Monson at 541-330-2647 or visit commuteoptions.org.
Katy Bryce is a freelance writer in Bend. katybryce.com