Monday, June 25, 2007

Fomenting the Ebike Revolution

What would it take to create an electric bicycle revolution in Portland, Oregon?

How can we match the vehicle to the trip, and radically reduce our consumption of energy? Why are we using so much energy to go to the store to get a few items or to get to a dental appointment? Why do we drive when we can walk or ride a bike?

Portland is, for an American City, very bike friendly. I have been a bicycle commuter for years in this city. I love bicycling here. However, I was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago and repeated surgeries and treatments have meant that I’m not the rider that I was. Recently, I would ride to a destination and find that I was too exhausted to get home and even too exhausted to lift my bicycle onto a bicycle rack on a bus. I resented the money that I had to spend on driving, the gas, the insurance, and the repairs. I hated the fact that for every mile I drove I was emitting a pound of carbon, just like all the other cars on the road. Most of all, I was so jealous of the people out there on bicycles when I was trapped in a car.

I realized that I had to get the appropriate technology to get myself around. It was time for an electric bicycle, an ebike. The ebike is quiet, non-polluting, and relatively inexpensive. It costs about 5 cents to travel 20 miles. As much as I love bicycling without a motor, it was becoming increasingly clear that I needed help to continue my lifestyle choices.

The following was quoted in the Clever Chimp blog and provides food for thought:
Ivan Illich said it best:

"A people can be just as dangerously overpowered by the wattage of its tools as by the caloric content of its foods, but it is much harder to confess to a national overindulgence in wattage than to a sickening diet. The per capita wattage that is critical for social well-being lies within an order of magnitude which is far above the horsepower known to four-fifths of humanity and far below the power commanded by any Volkswagen driver. It eludes the underconsumer and the overconsumer alike. Neither is willing to face the facts. For the primitive, the elimination of slavery and drudgery depends on the introduction of appropriate modern technology, and for the rich, the avoidance of an even more horrible degradation depends on the effective recognition of a threshold in energy consumption beyond which technical processes begin to dictate social relations. Calories are both biologically and socially healthy only as long as they stay within the narrow range that separates enough from too much." —Energy and Equity

In future posts, I will discuss some of the the research that I have come across. In the meantime, I'm in the process of converting my Bike Friday to an ebike. I will let you know how that goes. I'm using a local shop to do this: Scoot On This. Unfortunately, they are swamped with orders right now and are sorely in need of resources to expand their services. They will be unable to start on the coversion for a week or two and I've already been waiting for a while. It's sort of a Pop and Pop business at present. If I had more energy, I'd do the conversion myself, but I don't have the mental reserves to take on that sort of project at present.

I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to form an umbrella organization for ebikes and ebikers. I believe that we can get more people on bicycles this way, people who want to communte but who don't want to arrive to work all sweaty, people who are semi-disabled (like me), people who have large hills to navigate, people who want to dispense with their cars and rely exclusively on bike power, like the Stokemonkey folks.

I'm currently compiling a list of resourcees that I will post on a new website that I'm in the process of putting together. In the meantime, if anyone wishes to write to me and don't want to, or can't use the comment feature of this blog, my email address is

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