April 9, 2021

The E-Bike Wave in Unexpected Places

PT: Bob Ransford, who has been working on the Southlands project in Tsawwassen for years, brings another observation on change in that area:

Gordon wrote a few weeks ago about the wave of the future that has suddenly hit the beach with the recent popularity of e-bikes – not just in downtown Vancouver, around False Creek or the Stanley Park seawall, but on the hills of the suburban North Shore. It seems the perfect confluence of factors: an aging demographic, the yearning for pandemic-safe recreation, small, powerful batteries and falling prices for e-bikes, is suddenly manifesting in the form of a new suburban mobility.

On a weekend last September, in the midst of the pandemic, I was participating in the launch of sales for the first phase of housing at Southlands developed by Century Group – a new beach community rooted in farming and food in Tsawwassen.  On the two days, more than 3,500 came from near and far to wander through Southlands’ Market Square.

I was pleasantly shocked by the number of people who arrived on bicycles.  The tally of cyclists exceeded 730 cyclists over the two days.

What really caught my eye was the number of people who rode e-bikes to the event. Many of them were like me – aging boomers. Two of them were Tsawwassen residents Murray Pratt and Gord Sarkissian (below) who, in May, will be opening a new e-bike shop called Pedego Delta in a store-front space in Southlands’ new Discovery Centre building.

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General Manager (6-month contract)

The BC Cycling Coalition is seeking someone with advocacy, leadership, organizational management, and fundraising experience as General Manager.

The General Manager with engage with current stakeholders from across the province on transportation issues, oversee education programs (Bike Sense and Kids on Wheels), and help expand the reach and impact of the organization through the development of new partnerships, and expansion of existing fundraising strategies.

For more details about the role, the application deadline and instructions, download the Job Description here.

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It’s open!  The block in Robson Square from Hornby to Howe has been closed for about a year and a half for reconstruction (it’s complicated when you’re rebuilding a road on top of an underground building, I guess) – but now Arthur Erickson’s original vision for the square is complete.  Pedestrians (and bicycles) only.

And it’s a bigger space than I anticipated:

That means there will be lots of things happening simultaneously – demonstrations, performances, exhibitions, people hanging out, eating, ‘gramming, meeting, just trying to get someplace else.  And then being distracted by some of the best people-watching in the city.

Here’s a 360-degree video of literally my first minute in the square:

I love how the movement flows almost as if directed – the people walking and eating, the cyclists circumnavigating, the guy in the chair giving hand signals, the skateboarders performing almost on cue, the man on his laptop, and then back where we started.  Even the sirens and boarders providing the soundtrack.  None of it planned, all of it naturally choreographed.


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PT: Some new research from the University of Oxford that won’t surprise you – “people who walk or cycle have lower carbon footprints from daily travel” – but the degree of difference might, particularly between bikes and electric cars.  From The Conversation:

We observed around 4,000 people living in London, Antwerp, Barcelona, Vienna, Orebro, Rome and Zurich. Over a two-year period, our participants completed 10,000 travel diary entries which served as records of all the trips they made each day, whether going to work by train, taking the kids to school by car or riding the bus into town. For each trip, we calculated the carbon footprint.

Strikingly, people who cycled on a daily basis had 84% lower carbon emissions from all their daily travel than those who didn’t.

When we compared the life cycle of each travel mode, taking into account the carbon generated by making the vehicle, fuelling it and disposing of it, we found that emissions from cycling can be more than 30 times lower for each trip than driving a fossil fuel car, and about ten times lower than driving an electric one.

PT: Let’s repeat that: Taking into account the full lifecycle costs, each trip on a bike creates 30 times less emissions than driving. 

And here’s some useful data on the difference the pandemic has made:

The pandemic forced countries around the world to adapt to reduce the spread of the virus. In the UK, walking and cycling have been the big winners, with 20% rise in people walking regularly, and cycling levels increasing by 9% on weekdays and 58% on weekends compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is despite cycle commuters being very likely to work from home.

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Peter Ladner, a board member of the B.C. Cycling Coalition, writes:

We need your support for our Safe Passing Distance campaign, requiring cars in B.C. to stay at least 1.5 metres away from cyclists (including e-bikes), scooters and pedestrians. This is part of a multi-year campaign for changes to the Motor Vehicle Act. *


Safety for cyclists is more pressing than ever with the COVID-induced surge in cycling of all kinds by people of all ages and abilities. Yet in BC, four times every day, a person on a bike will be injured from being hit by a car. Every year, eight people die. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. Stronger road safety laws can reduce that risk.


*A generous donor has just stepped up to match any donation over $100 or any monthly donation over $10/month for one year. Donate now and double your impact. Donations must be received by midnight April 6 for the doubling match. 


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Here’s a report on the changes being levered by the pandemic to accelerate the move to active-transportation infrastructure and design of neighbourhoods in Britain – and the reaction against the constraint of motordom. 

Notice, as well, the use of the ‘Fairness Finesse.’ That’s the use of progressive language, defense of the marginalized, particularly the disabled, and the strategy of anti-gentrification – all to maintain the status quo: “motorists reasserting their right to take up space on urban streets.”  

And let’s throw in a little class warfare:  “Steve McNamara, the chair of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association … repeatedly returns to a theme that cyclists are a privileged minority making life more difficult for working-class drivers in the suburbs.”

From The Guardian:

In London, the Streetspace plan unveiled by mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL), demanded “an urgent and swift response” to the crisis. The strategy funnelled money from the government’s new active-travel fund to London’s boroughs for low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and other projects to encourage walking and cycling, such as temporary cycle lanes and timed road closures outside schools. By the end of last year, there were about 100 in London, where they have been most widely adopted, but they are now being rolled out in Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. …

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When Tony Valente invited me over for a tour of recent cycling developments in the City of North Vancouver, he offered an irresistible inducement: an e-bike experience.

As someone who has never quite seen the need for one (or felt that it was a kind of cheating), I nonetheless anticipated that e-bikes were the wave of the future.  In fact, I was surprised they hadn’t washed ashore sooner in a tsunami from some massive factory in Taiwan.

Well, the future is showing up – that wave is coming in on the North Shore.  In particular, at Tony Sun’s Reckless outlet in The Shipyards.

Perhaps it’s is a confluence of factors: small powerful batteries, an aging demographic, falling prices, the need for pandemic-safe recreation, the cool factor.

Or even hormones.  Once Tony took a few minutes to explain the basic mechanics, I was pressing the button to kick in the e-assist.  It was like a hit of adrenaline, the bike felt almost alive, and out of my mouth came an unforced reaction.


And what better place to take a test run than the North Shore.  They have hills over there.  Long ones, like East Keith Road:

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