Cycling
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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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.

Whee!

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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I served with Don Bell on the regional district board when he was Mayor of the District of North Vancouver.  Now he’s a councillor In the City (CNV), and one of the longest serving local leaders in Metro.

So yeah, he’s an old white guy who’s been around a long time.  How does he stay relevant?

Like this:

Don Bell bought an e-scooter/bike.

Cllr Tony Vallente took this shot at the opening of Reckless Shipyards, where two modes – scooters and cycles – are hybridizing.

I always thought of Don as a windshield politician.  A car windshield.  Everything he saw on the other side was designed to assist the way he was moving, from the engineering of the road to the size of the parking lot.  All the houses and apartment buildings, the shops and offices, the warehouses and whatever – everything based on the assumption that almost everyone drove, almost everywhere, almost all the time.

Don’s world.  Where the car is a member of the family.

That was the District Don was mayor of. But it’s not the City he represents now – the city that has embraced urbanism, that believes in the regional vision – of dense, mixed-use centres, connected by good transit.  Like Lower Lonsdale.  And now Upper Lonsdale.

The Council has, by fits and starts, agreed to get denser and different.  To not be as car dependent.  North Vancouver isn’t just suburbia.  Nor is Don now just a driver.

Now he’s bought an e-scooter.  Seeing without a windshield the community he helps shape.

 

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… or at least Italy, from where John Graham reports:

In the south of Italy – here in Sorrento at the end of the Amalfi coast – the e-bike with fat tires is taking over. And not by the mountain-biker demographic, as you can see from the front basket and rear child seat.

This bike on the main pedestrian shopping street is their version of the mini SUV. The fat tires are for the rough and variable cobblestones.

The rider was a woman in her 40’s who got off and went into the cosmetic shop behind.

 

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Another counter-intuitive study that offsets a reasonable expectation that more electric bikes and scooters will mean less fit users – kind of like the idea that ‘riding hailing will result in less SOV use and vehicle congestion’.  (Turns out Uber et al increase congestion and reduce transit use.)  But there are qualifications.

From treehugger:

E-bikers use their bikes more, go longer distances, and often substitute it for driving or transit. …

A new study, with a mouthful of a title, “Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities,” finds that in fact it is true: e-bikers take longer trips and get pretty much the same physical activity gains as analog cyclists. …

But perhaps even more significant is the dramatic increase in exercise among people who switch from cars to e-bikes, a much easier transition than from cars to a-bikes.

It should be noted that this study looks at European pedelec e-bikes like my Gazelle, where people have to pedal a bit to get the 250 watt motor to kick in. Results probably don’t apply to overpowered throttle-controlled American e-bikes or scooters. Because, as the study authors note, with a pedelec, “using an e-bike requires moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, depending on topography.”

There is so much to unpack from this study. It also looks at how e-bikes are easier for older riders, keeping them fitter longer. It also reinforces my opinion that the Europeans got it right by limiting speed and power on e-bikes and mandating that they are all pedelecs rather than throttle operated; you don’t get much exercise on a motorcycle.

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