I ride an e-bike. It enables me to go for longer rides and spend more time outdoors getting fresh air in my lungs than a regular bike. It helps me to keep up with cycling companions who are younger, stronger or who prefer riding faster than I could on a regular bike. The battery assists me in riding up hills that I would otherwise have to dismount and walk with the bike. I have MS and the e-bike helps me exercise in spite of fatigue, a frequent symptom of that disease.
And I am a 68-year-old grandmother, not a terrorist dressed in Lycra. Although there are some who ride unpredictably and don’t follow the rules of the road, the majority of cyclists are reasonable people who really enjoy exercising while going places. (I’ve recently learned that this is called Active Transportation.) I go out of my way to signal my intentions to car drivers, to give them room to pass, and to thank them with a wave when they yield the right of way. Although I have to muster the courage of a warrior to ride assertively in traffic at times when conditions call for it, I do my best to be an ambassador of goodwill and leave a good impression.
Although some e-bikes have a throttle and don’t require any pedaling to move forward, I prefer the “pedal-assist” kind that allows me to choose what level of assistance I want. On level terrain I often turn the battery off entirely. With some experience I have learned which combination of gearing and battery assistance will get my heart rate and breathing to the level of exercise I want.
So really, an e-bike isn’t a substitute for working as hard as I want on the bike. It just gives me options for riding hills that I wouldn’t otherwise tackle, or riding longer distances to see more interesting scenery. I haven’t given up my lightweight road bike, and I still prefer that for solo rides where I don’t have to keep up with anyone. But I have a lot more choices in where to ride when I use my e-bike.
I feel safer riding my e-bike than I do on my regular bike, too, and here’s why. Because I can easily boost my acceleration with the battery in response to traffic situations, I can safely ride on city streets as well as on dedicated bike trails. And the battery helps keep pace better on streets with bike lanes, where the only separation between bikes and cars is a stripe of paint on the roadway.
An example of a tricky intersection that used to scare me crossing on my regular bike is where 76th Avenue West crosses State Route 104 and becomes Meridian Avenue North, heading southbound into Shoreline. The Interurban Trail puts cyclists into a bike lane on 76th going up a steep hill. Then just before the intersection with SR 104, the bike lane disappears! Cyclists have two legal options: 1) dtopping at the traffic light in the thru lane, inevitably holding up cars while struggling to get going once the light turns green; or 2) riding on the sidewalk when the bike lane ends, dismounting at the intersection, and crossing on foot as a pedestrian. The difficulty with option 2 is mounting the bike once across, and attempting with no momentum to ride up the steep half block of sidewalk before the bike lane reappears, or else walking the bike up the entire hill to the top at 200th and Meridian.
Neither option is good for cyclists. But with my e-bike I can now confidently pedal up the thru lane along with cars, boost the battery power while stopped in anticipation of the green light, and be well on my way across the intersection and up the hill without aggravating drivers behind me.
Because bicycling has been so important to my own health and well-being, I joined the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group (EBAG) a few years ago. EBAG has done tremendous work in past years to help teach children how to ride bikes and how to ride safely; it continues to work for safer and more accessible cycling for riders of all ages and all kinds of bikes. With transportation funding now available, EBAG is working with other agencies to address the problem intersection at 76th across SR 104 to reduce or eliminate conflict between motor vehicles and bicycles. EBAG also helps with bike rodeos, Bike Month (coming up in May), and many other activities to promote safe cycling for recreation, transportation, and good health.
Keep in mind I am just one kind of e-bike rider. E-bikes now have such broad appeal that there are as many kinds of riders as there are kinds of e-bikes. Prices have come down and you may want to check them out at your local bike store. I’m certainly not an expert in the choices of e-bikes, but happy to share my experience as a senior bicyclist on one.
One more thing that this grandma is anticipating with pleasure: adding a bike trailer and using the e-bike to take my little granddaughter on bike rides with me! Pulling a toddler in a trailer uphill should not be a problem.
Do you have questions about e-bike riding or the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— By Margaret Elwood