I ride an electric bike. It allows me to go on longer rides and spend more time outdoors breathing fresh air into my lungs than a regular bike. It helps me keep up with fellow riders who are younger, stronger, or prefer to ride faster than I could on a regular bike. The battery helps me climb hills that I would otherwise have to dismount and walk with the bike. I have MS and the e-bike helps me exercise despite being tired, a common symptom of this condition.
And I’m a 68-year-old grandmother, not a Lycra-clad terrorist. Although some ride unpredictably and disobey the rules of the road, the majority of cyclists are reasonable people who genuinely like to exercise while on the move. (I recently learned it’s called active transportation.) I do my best to signal my intentions to motorists, give them room to pass, and thank them with a wave when they give way. passage. Although I must muster the courage of a warrior to ride confidently in traffic when the conditions call for it, I do my best to be a goodwill ambassador and leave a good impression.
Although some e-bikes have a throttle and require no pedaling to move forward, I prefer the “pedal assist” type which allows me to choose the level of assistance I want. On flat ground, I often switch off the battery completely. With a bit of experience, I’ve learned what combination of gearing and battery assist will get my heart rate and breathing to the level of exercise I want.
So really, an e-bike is no substitute for working as hard as I want on the bike. It just gives me options to ride hills I wouldn’t otherwise tackle, or ride longer distances to see more interesting scenery. I haven’t given up on my lightweight road bike, and I still prefer it for solo rides where I don’t have to follow anyone. But I have a lot more choice of where to ride when using my e-bike.
I also feel safer on my e-bike than on my regular bike, and here’s why. Because I can easily increase my acceleration with the battery in response to traffic situations, I can ride safely on city streets as well as dedicated bike lanes. And the battery helps keep pace better on streets with bike lanes, where the only separation between bikes and cars is a strip of paint on the pavement.
An example of a tricky intersection that scared me to cross with my usual bike is where 76th Avenue West crosses State Route 104 and becomes Meridian Avenue North, heading south toward Shoreline. The intercity trail puts cyclists in a bike lane on 76th up a steep hill. Then just before the intersection with the SR 104, the cycle path disappears! Cyclists have two legal options: 1) stop at the traffic light in the passing lane, inevitably holding up cars while struggling to get going once the light turns green; or 2) ride on the sidewalk at the end of the bike lane, dismount at the intersection and cross on foot as a pedestrian. The difficulty with option 2 is to mount the bike once on the other side and try without momentum to climb the steep half block of pavement before the bike path reappears, or else mount the bike on any the hill to the summit at the 200th and meridian.
Neither option is good for cyclists. But with my e-bike, I can now confidently pedal the passing lane with cars, boost battery power while stationary in anticipation of the green light, and ride well through the intersection and up the hill without aggravating drivers behind me.
Because cycling has been so important to my health and well-being, I joined the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group (EBAG) a few years ago. EBAG has done an amazing job over the past few years helping children learn to ride and cycle safely; he continues to work towards safer and more accessible cycling for cyclists of all ages and all types of bikes. With transportation funding now available, EBAG is working with other agencies to resolve the intersection issue at 76th across SR 104 to reduce or eliminate conflicts between motor vehicles and bicycles. EBAG also helps with Bike Rodeos, Bike Month (coming May) and many other activities to promote safe cycling for recreation, transportation and good health.
Keep in mind that I’m just one type of e-biker. E-bikes now have such appeal that there are as many types of riders as there are types of e-bikes. Prices have come down and you might want to check them out at your local bike shop. I’m definitely not an expert in choosing e-bikes, but happy to share my experience as a senior cyclist on one.
One more thing this grandma is looking forward to: adding a bike trailer and using the e-bike to take my granddaughter on a bike ride with me! Pulling a toddler in a trailer uphill shouldn’t be a problem.
Do you have questions about the e-bike or the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group? contact me at [email protected].
— By Margaret Elwood