Sustainable travel is a big concern for many of us. We often choose to live some distance from where we go to work or school. Whilst a century ago, people thought nothing of a five mile walk to work, nowadays, we just don’t have enough spare time to do all that walking. There’s always so much going on and we’re in too much of a hurry.
So, we take the train, we take the bus, or we take the car. We know that taking public transport reduces our carbon footprint, so in many cases it’s a good option. But sometimes, there isn’t a train or bus to where we want to go, or if there is, it’s not available at a convenient time. Well, there’s always the car – but we all know that’s the least sustainable way of getting around.
What about two wheels instead of four? A bike can get you moving pretty fast and regular cycling helps you keep fit too. So it’s an excellent way of getting around. Except if, like me, you live in a fairly hilly area with several big climbs on your journey to and from work.
Well, a while back, I discovered the solution. For the last couple of months, I have cycled to work most days – on my new electric bike. There is a pretty hefty battery pack disguised as a water bottle on the mountain bike frame, the motor is mounted on the front wheel and there’s a thumb throttle and a control box mounted on the handlebars, but it otherwise looks pretty much like a normal bike.
It’s not a lazy option – you still have to pedal pretty hard, but I’ve really noticed the difference on the uphills that having the motor whirring away in the background provides, especially in ‘pedal assist’ mode, which means that the motor gives you a hand while you pedal. And the bike is designed to be pedalled – the motor and battery aren’t powerful enough to keep you going for long without help from the rider. The motor cuts out when you reach 15mph, as this is the maximum speed that electric bikes are allowed to travel at under power in the UK, so from then on, you’re just using your leg power to go faster. I can now do my 7.5 mile journey to work in around 20 minutes and because much of Yeovil (where YPTE is based) has traffic-free cycle paths, it’s mostly pretty safe too.
The battery is good for about 20-30 miles of riding between charges, so it’s perfect for my 15 mile round trip and it feels really good to know that I have reduced my carbon footprint. Of course, the bike still has to be charged and the electricity required has to come from somewhere. But the amount of CO2 produced by the generation of electricity to charge the battery equates to a fuel efficiency of somewhere around 2,000 miles per gallon and I can live with that.
Whilst electric or hybrid cars are still some way from becoming popular forms of transport and indeed, the both technology and our infrastructure both need serious improvement before electric cars will ever be widely adopted, electric bikes could be the future of short journeys. I would never have considered cycling to work on my ordinary bike, there are too many hills. But on the electric bike, cycling becomes real fun and I arrive at work fresh for the day, rather than exhausted and sweaty.
So for anyone considering how to reduce the carbon footprint of their daily commute, who like me has a few hills between work and home, think seriously about an electric bike. There are lots of choices out there nowadays, with many different manufacturers and sellers and some of the more expensive bikes out there have a range of 50 miles or more between charges. Mine is made by a UK based firm called Cyclotricity but there are lots of others out there too.