Ride on: Vicky Sherry loves getting to appointments on her Gazelle electric-assist bike. E-bikes are helping to remove some of the main reasons people do not commute by bike – hills, heat, and distance. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.HILLS, heat and distance are often cited as reasons why people donot commute to work by bike,but advances in the performance of electric-assist bicyclesare removing some of those barriers.
Newcastle-based strata investigatorVicky Sherry liked the idea of being able to ride to her appointments, get some exercise, and reduce her carbon footprint.
“Because of the nature of my work, there were some places I needed to go that were too far to ride my normal bike,” she said.
“I’d have to take the car.”
But since landingin the saddle of a Gazelle electric-assist bike during a test-ride, she has not looked back.
She has since clocked up more than 2000 kilometres on the bike.
“It is power assist, so it hasn’t got a throttle.I still have to pedal,” she said.
“It’s a very pleasant way to get from job-to-job.”
Some large hills sit between Ms Sherry and muchof her work in Charlestown and Adamstown.
But her“e-bike” had made it possibleto arrive at appointments on time, without raising too much of a sweat on the way.
Ms Sherry liked that she did not have to drive around looking for a park, and that she hadsavedon diesel.
She said she had gone from filling up her car’s tank once a week to once a month.
Supporters of the proposed 230-kilometreCycleSafe Network said the construction of safe cycling infrastructure would make it even easier for people to commute by bike.
Bernard Hocking, of Metro Cycles in Newcastle,said there had been somesignificant improvements to the performance of electric-assistbikes, which was helping to break downthe barriers people hadto cycling.
He said e-bikes were activated by pedaling, and the motor stopped“assisting”at about25km/hour.
“They are still bicycles, you still have to pedal, but they give you that little bit of assistance when you need it,” Mr Hockings said.
“They are designed to help you up hills and maintain a safe speed when the going might be a bit tough.
“They’renothing like the motorised bikes that were banned.”
Tim Roberts, director of the Tom Farrell Institutefor the Environment at the University of Newcastle, said the electric bike was changing the waypeople got from oneplace to another.
The institute hosts an annual electric vehicle festival each year.
Dr Robertssaid both the“super fit” and the“young at heart” could benefit from the improving technology.
He said batteries in e-bikes were improving, and theywere just as safe–or dangerous–as an ordinary bike, depending on how they were treated.
“I’ve ridden them but I’m waiting for the CycleSafe Networkto be built so that I don’t have to compete with cars,” he said.
“To be able to ride safely is exceedingly important.”