Easy Riding on E-Bikes
The new wave of two-wheeled transport comes with a little pedal assist
The old adage promises that you will never forget how to ride a bicycle—and that is true of Southwest Florida’s many visitors who enjoy taking in the area’s beauty via two wheels. Today’s vacationers, however, will encounter a new cycling option that has taken off during the past few years. Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, are going mainstream. On an e-bike, it’s easier than ever to pump those pedals. In general, riding an e-bike is the same as riding a standard bicycle, except e-bikes have an attached electric motor. When the pedal-assist function is switched on, riders must still pedal, but they can do so with much less physical effort. On some models, which are less popular in Southwest Florida, a throttle on the handlebars will completely power the bike, so that riders do not have to pedal at all. These advantages have prompted Andy’s Electric Bikes of Fort Myers to laud e-bikes as “the best of both worlds.” They are “more efficient than a standard bike, but not as costly as a true scooter or motorcycle.” All in all, electric bicycles encourage cyclists to “ride farther and faster,” and they embolden others who normally would not consider cycling, says Salli Kirkland of Billy’s Bike Shop on Sanibel. E-bikes help riders feel confident that they can safely reach their destination, even after a long day of biking in the
When the pedal-assist function is switched on, riders must still pedal, but they can do so with much less physical effort.
face of buffeting winds as they pedal back home. Greg Pelican, marketing manager of Trek Bicycle Stores of Florida, affirms that one of the biggest benefits of e-bikes is that they “allow riders of any fitness level to ride,” including older people and those with a limited range of mobility. Riding e-bikes instead of driving fuelhungry vehicles aids the environment, too. Electric bicycles do not rely on gasoline and therefore do not produce emissions. Instead, e-bike batteries can charge in just a few hours while plugged into a regular household outlet, according to Andy’s Electric Bikes. A 2017 study by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville maintains that e-bikes can be 10-30 times more energy efficient than cars. An additional benefit of riding an eco-friendly e-bike is that consumers can save money on transportation costs, since charging an
e-bike battery costs significantly less than filling up a car’s gas tank—or even a motorbike’s tank. E-bike riders are not required to have a registration or a driver’s license to ride. The bikes offer a convenient transportation option for daily work commutes and short errand runs, suggests Kirkland. An electric bicycle is also a great option for leisurely riding. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville study found that 40 percent of e-bike owners used their e-bikes instead of taking single car trips. The study of more than 1,700 e-bike owners also revealed that e-bikes allowed 34 percent of owners to take trips that they otherwise would have avoided. This very accessible mode of transportation is particularly handy for owners who live in temperate destinations, such as Southwest Florida. “E-bikes are very popular in gated communities where they are used for recreation and transportation,” says Pelican of Trek Bicycles. They have resulted in some regulations, however. Fort Myers Beach instituted a ban last year. Town council member Bruce Butcher, in an interview with local television station NBC2, explained that the town feared that bicycle riders speeding along at 20 miles per hour “could create chaos, knocking people off sidewalks into traffic flow.” The e-bike ban on the paths, sidewalks and beach area of Fort Myers Beach threatens violators with a $50 fine, although e-bikes are still allowed on the roads of Fort Myers Beach. While most of the world’s e-bikes can be found in China, consumers in Western Europe and North America are steadily purchasing more e-bikes, according to a report by Navigant Research, an energy market research firm. This proliferation of e-bikes provides plenty of opportunities to ride electric bicycles on domestic vacations and abroad. Electric bicycle tours are a great way to travel slowly through a region, cycling a certain
E-bikes help riders feel confident that they can safely reach their destination, even after a long day of biking in the face of buffeting winds.
distance each day to reach the next hotel. Even a bicycle trip through the Swiss Alps is possible aboard an e-bike. Riding on e-bikes is especially useful for groups of mixed fitness levels, so less experienced cyclists can rely more heavily on pedalassist functions to stay up to speed. Wherever you choose to cruise, riding an e-bike can be an easy solution.
Alison Roberts-Tse has degrees in communications and dance from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She now lives in London, spends time on Sanibel and obsessively plans getaways, both near and far.
An attached electric motor makes pedaling quite a bit easier on an e-bike. Batteries charge in just a few hours while plugged into a regular household outlet.
E-bikes are great equalizers, allowing riders of all levels to bike together without anyone lagging behind.