Widener prof puts pedal to the mettle
CHESTER » The Greater Philadelphia area is marking Bike to Work Day today, May 18, but for Widener University Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Bruce Grant, Ph.D., it’s a daily commute like any other.
After a lifetime biking, Grant decided to fully commit on June 15, 2017, and retired his Subaru after 250,000 miles in favor an electric bicycle.
“My wife has a handme-down Toyota Matrix for anything further than 10 miles, but we’re working on that,” said Grant. Tracking his mileage on a spreadsheet, Grant has now logged over 2,500 miles on his iZip E3 Vibe electric bicycle, including close to 1,800 miles from his 9.5 mile daily commute to Widener from his Wallingford home.
Grant charges the bike at his home powered 100 percent by wind through the Philadelphia-based Energy Co-op, which wholesales alternative energy for distribution by PECO.
“When I first got to Widener (24 years ago), I used to use a regular bike a lot, but I’m totally sold on the ebike,” he said. “I’ve got some big saddle bags on it and can carry 20 to 30 pounds of groceries without any difficulty.”
Grant sees the constant technical improvements and reduced costs of electric bicycles as one marketbased way the general public can personally commit to reduced pollution in the face of climate change.
“I have tremendous faith in the market,” he said. “Coal and fossil fuel-emitting technologies are on their way out. The real battle ground is critical thinking. If we can see systems of time frame and decisions … the market will take care of itself.”
“This bike paid for itself in nine months from mileage and car insurance costs,” said Grant, referring to spreadsheets on the IRS mileage rate and monthly expense estimates from his Subaru. “The bike is one-tenth the expense for major repair.”
While the market is presenting consumers with more practical and affordable automobile alternatives, infrastructure in areas like Delaware County still presents a challenge.
“It’s kind of a hard sell,” he said. “I wish that’s something that the townships would unify around – we need safer bike lanes. I suspect a lot of folks don’t do it because they’re scared.”
“You need a 3-foot bike lane, the math is that simple,” he said. Grant estimates it will take a generation to expand bicyclistfriendly infrastructure. He cited Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River Trail and the expansion of the East Coast Greenway – which will include Chester – as beginnings of the movement.
While the bike infrastructure in Delaware County may not be as developed as Philadelphia, Grant did point to extensive SEPTA bus routes as an alternative to daily personal driving, using his two children as examples. At 23 and 26, they have never gotten driver’s licenses, choosing to use public transportation.
“We have to think about our future; we’re going to need to make some changes and it begins at home,” said Grant. “’Ecology is the study of the home – the Greek is ‘eco,’ home, and ‘-ology,’ the study of. With this bike, I’m bringing the study home.”
Widener University Professor Bruce Grant on campus with his electric bicycle.