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Electric bikes could enable a seven percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. For this to happen, Americans will need to replace many short car trips and commutes with e-bike trips.

“Most urban trips are less than 5 kilometers ; a short enough distance that it can be traveled by e-bikes and e-scooters in roughly the same amount of time as personal vehicles,” according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), a New York-based cycling and alternative transportation advocacy group.

“Thanks to the boost in speed from electricity, these devices can cover more ground faster than traditional, non-electric bikes and scooters. Replacing cars presents significant climate benefits: if the mode share for e-bikes rises to 11 percent, we could see a 7-percent decrease in CO2 emissions from the urban transport sector by 2030, which is equivalent to taking 134 million cars off the road. Up to 50 percent of short-distance car trips in US cities, and up to 70 percent in UK cities, could be replaced by electric micromobility modes,” again according to the ITDP.

 

What Cities Can Do

The ITDP comments accompanied the release of a new informational graphic that outlines five steps city leaders can take to help encourage electric bike and e-scooter use. Here are the ITDP recommendations.
  1. Legalize electric bikes and scooters. Before there can be a significant increase in the number of electric bike and scooter trips, these modes of transportation must be legal. City administrators should regulate e-bikes like bicycles so that no license or insurance is required.
  2. Set speed limits and clearly mark lanes. The ITDP believes there should be standard speed limits and clearly marked bicycle and scooter paths.
  3. Design for micromobility. “Ensure cycle lanes are protected and form a complete network, safely accommodating low-speed e-bike and e-scooter riders in addition to pedal cyclists.”
  4. Manage bike and scooter sharing. E-bike ownership is important, but there should be ride sharing too. City leaders should work with electric bike and e-scooter sharing companies to ensure scooters and bikes are parked safely.
  5. Monitor to measure and improve. City leaders should monitor how many electric bike trips, e-scooter trips, and even automobile trips are being taken. As new programs and policies are tested or implemented the results should be measured to further improve transportation and reduce carbon emissions.
The ITDP infographic

Related Resources

 

The automobile has driven (pun intended) progress in America at least since the first Model A Ford rolled off of the production line on October 20, 1927. There is also little doubt that cars and trucks will continue to be the most popular form of transportation in the United States for the foreseeable future. But that hasn’t stopped some folks from trying to reduce the number of car trips they take.

In fact, many shoppers purchase an electric bike or an electric trike because they want an inexpensive, healthy, and environmentally friendly way to replace short car trips.

The movement toward reducing automobile trips has also created a new sort of vehicle that is not exactly an electric trike, not quite a velomobile, but still and intriguing car alternative.

If you want to learn more, listen to this episode of The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. You can also follow along with the transcript below.

Armando: If an electric bike had a crazy, nerdy cousin, it might be a pedal-assisted velomobile or minicar. These unusual vehicles combine electric bike components with a car's protective body, windshield and other systems. A great example a velomobile or minicar is the PEBL from Better Bike, a Massachusetts-based company that's trying to popularize these environmentally-friendly, fun-to-use alternatives to the car.

Well, this is The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO, and my name is Armando Roggio. In this episode we're going to meet Nevin Murray, who is the co-founder and chief operating officer at Better Bike, and Erin Cotter Cartwright, who is the marketing director at Better Bike. Nevin and Erin, welcome to the podcast. Erin: Thank you.

Nevin: Thank you.

Just Heading To High School

Armando: Let's start by talking about Better Bike. What was the impetus for the company? Why make a velomobile, minicar like the PEBL?

Nevin: So, Better Bike originally started as a side project. I was a freshman in high school, and I was looking at the seniors in high school, I was watching them drive cars. On one hand, I was super jealous. I really wanted to have that level of freedom but, on the other hand, I was conscious of the environmental impact that that was having and this contradiction between... I was learning, in school, about climate change and about the climate crisis, while on the other hand passively going about life as normal.

Ideally, I wanted an electric car, that was out of the price range at the time, and I was looking at all these other alternatives online. There were a bunch of cool velomobiles but, being a self-conscious high schooler, I really wanted something that I thought looked cool and wasn't super low to the ground, as well. Would fit all my school stuff, my stuff for track practice. I started playing around with taking these concepts and doing some drawings. Eventually, I went to my dad. Both of us, we like doing projects together, we were very mechanically inclined, I was working as a bike mechanic at the time, and we said, "Well, why don't we try to make one?" This was just as a one-off, basically, for me to be able to ride to school.

We spent about a year researching and prototyping. I think it was maybe a year and a half until we finished our first one. It was super cool, it worked mostly how we wanted it to. Obviously, there were a bunch of tweaks that we would make later on. But then, at that point, my dad, Kevin, he decided that he liked this so much that he wanted one, so we built a second one. At that point, we were completely sold on the idea of the PEBL, we started to realize the potential possibility that it had, and we decided to go into business. We ended up making three more prototypes after that, and then we launched a Kickstarter campaign, which brought us into our production facility. Six years on from the beginning, but three years after the Kickstarter, this is where we are today.

A Cool Startup

Armando: Erin, how did they draw you in?

Erin: I actually got the job because one of my good friends was working for the company before she started graduate school this semester. She called me and told me that she'd just gotten a job at this cool startup that was local to us, and that they also needed a second person. It was exactly the kind of job that I was looking for. I interviewed with Nevin the next week, and I've been with the company ever since.

Armando: So, Erin, did the job come with a PEBL? Do you ride one to work?

Erin: I don't, sadly, but we do have a PEBL in our warehouse that is available to the staff to use. I have definitely driven it, and gone around and done some of my marketing with it. It's really fun to drive, and that has definitely been one of the perks of the job, having a PEBL available to me.

What is the PEBL?

Armando: Maybe you can both address this, but a moment ago I referred to riding a PEBL. Erin, I think you said, and maybe it was a way to correct me, driving a PEBL. Do we think of it as a bike, as a microcar, a velomobile? What is the proper terminology for a PEBL?

Nevin: Right. It's a good question. We actually switch back between the two, riding and driving. What we're looking for right now is the term that everyone will know a microcar, e-trike by in the future. Currently, we call it a microcar-e-rike because it combines what it is: it's an e-trike, but it is also a microcar. So, right now, we switch back and forth between ride or drive, and we're perfectly fine using either one.

Armando: So, this is not a perfect answer, but I suppose that one distinction could be whether or not you have to pedal. Again, this is not perfect because, for example, the EVELO Compass is an electric trike. It looks like a trike. It rides like a trike, but has a throttle, you don't always have to pedal. I believe that is true of the PEBL too. It has a throttle. Correct?

Nevin: Yeah, that's right. You don't have to pedal. It has its own throttle, it has cruise control, exterior lighting. It has its own little trunk, windshield wiper, heater. That's what puts in a different category from a velomobile or, I guess, any e-trike, is that it has its own throttle and it has all the other similar basic features to a car that make it usable on roads 99 percent of the time.

Legal Status

Armando: How does the government classify the PEBL? We just spoke about it not being quite an electric trike, it's not quite a velomobile, it is sort of a minicar. If it was an electric trike, having a throttle would make it a class 2 electric bike, but how does the government classify it?

Nevin: You want to take that, Erin?

Erin: Yeah. I actually have been doing quite a bit of research on that lately because I'm getting a lot of inquiries from out clients. Right now, it really does vary state to state because velomobiles and e-bikes like ours are pretty recent on the market. It's something that states are gaining out on their own, but we do typically fall into a class 2. I know that in Washington state, we're a class 2, in a lot of New England states, we are, but right now there isn't really one uniform federal law classifying velomobiles or e-bikes like the PEBL. It really is state to state, but is something that we're obviously researching for our clients before they purchase to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up.

Armando: Sure, that makes sense. So, on a one-by-one, customer-by-customer basis, you're helping them to know how the PEBL is classified where they ride. You're probably guiding them regarding what they need to do to meet local requirements.

Erin: Exactly.

Nevin: Correct.

Erin: Yeah.

Nevin: In almost every state, it's considered an e-bike. In those states where they have started to split it up into the three-tier classification, it's, "What tier does it fit into?" and it's usually the second tier. It's rare that there's a state that this doesn't fit into some type of e-bike classification.

Erin: Exactly.

Armando: So, in most places it would not need a special license, it wouldn't need tags, and I could still drive or ride the PEBL on the roads. Is that correct?

Erin: Yes. There are some states that require people to at least have a learner's permit to operate it, but we have not encountered a single state that's required it to be licensed like a car.

PEBL Safety

Armando: What about safety? Are there safety concerns when you're riding or driving a PEBL in traffic, and what do drivers think of it?

Nevin: That's a good question.

Erin: Yeah.

Nevin: It's a main feature. We actually consider the PEBL to be safer than a traditional bike, from our experience over these past six years riding it on public roads. We find that cars typically treat the PEBL with more respect than they would a typical bike.

For instance, say you have a situation where cars are coming from both directions and you're on the side of the road. The car behind you, we find, will, much more of the time, wait to pass you before the other car from the other side passes. That combined with the fact that you're fully enclosed so you have a protective shell, and you have all of the same lighting that a car would have, from our experience we've found it's much safer.

Erin: I would say that I agree. I've heard from a lot of our clients, when I ask for feedback, that the fact that the PEBL has headlights the way a car does, as Nevin said, does make drivers look at the PEBL differently than they would a traditional bicycle, and they do give it a bit of a wider berth than they would otherwise. We have heard from many people that they feel perfectly confident and secure driving it on the road.

Nevin: Right, and then there's the visibility aspect, as well. It's presence is much different and much more substantial than a bike, so you'll be in less of situation where cars won't see you when they're taking a left-hand turn; similar situation that motorcycles have. The PEBL has a presence, so they're able to spot you much easier.

Better for the Environment

Armando: Earlier, Nevin, you mentioned that when you were building the prototype with your dad, or maybe it was even when you became interested in building a velomobile to begin with, protecting the environment was part of your motivation. Would you both speak a little bit about how car alternatives like the PEBL, like the electric bikes we build at EVELO, protect the environment? Maybe even talk about why that's important.

Nevin: Sure.

Erin: Yeah.

Nevin: It comes down to the amount of cars on the road and what you're doing rather than driving. Compared to a car, the PEBL gets around 1,000 mpg, equivalent. I don't know what a bike gets. It definitely gets even more than that, but the PEBL is extremely efficient and that goes for all e-bikes in general. So, you're just simply not using as much energy going place to place, when you're using this alternative transportation as you are in a car; you're towing around 3,000 lbs of extra weight with you. The PEBL weighs 300 lbs, so it's a tenth of the weight, basically. The PEBL is meant for more urban environments, shorter commutes, so you're not accelerating to the same types of speeds. There's more efficiency built in there. You're not wasting as much energy accelerating and decelerating. That's really the main thing. Erin, do you want to add to that?

Ride Sharing a PEBL

Erin: Yeah. In terms of our long-term goals, as well, for our environmental impact, right now, myself and our sales director are working on potential ride share programs with the PEBL. We do have one thing that's going on right now with a local town where we're in talks with the government municipality about selling them a fleet of PEBLs that they would then rent out to their citizens, the way Citi Bike is doing in New York City and elsewhere, to allow people in their town to use their cars less but to still have a reliable mode of transport that they can get their groceries or their prescriptions in. That's also something that we want to expand to college campuses or campgrounds so that, in multiple places where we congregate and usually bring our cars to get to, we can now cut out some of that by having the PEBL available instead.

So, if you are going to a college somewhere and you bring a car with you, and you're driving through campus in the town that your college is in, emitting all of these toxins into the atmosphere, we're hoping to have alternative options on college campuses, eventually, where a student doesn't have to bring their car and can just rely on a solar-charged PEBL instead.

Armando: Oh wow, and solar charged. Is that the case for the current PEBLs?

Erin: It is an option on the PEBL to have the solar roof, and we do have quite a few customers who are going with it. It seems to be something where the last, I'd say, half dozen of our clients already have solar panels on their roof, so they're looking to add the PEBL and they already have all of the materials and the charging dock necessary for it. So the solar roof is one of our most popular features, yes.

Armando: So, learning that you're trying to make the PEBL the Uber, if you will, of alternative transportation ride sharing, I'm wondering about how many are in service. It's been a few years since the Kickstarter project, I hope you don't mind that I ask, but are you selling hundreds of PEBLs or dozens?

Erin: At this point, we're in the dozens but, with our new ride share programs that we're looking to do, we're hoping to expand and have that number raised quite substantially. That's really, I would say, Nev, a goal of ours.

Nevin: Yeah, that, and we have a couple of other potential initiatives, as well, for multi-user use cases. Right now, we're still early stages, in the dozens, but looking to be in the hundreds by this time next year and expanding even more after that.

Can I Have One?

Armando: So, maybe this is a positive sign: as I was preparing for the podcast, I asked some of our product development and customer service folks if they had any questions they wanted me to ask you about the PEBL, and there are really two questions. One, I've asked already, which was about safety. The other question was this: “can I have one?”

Nevin: We'll work on it. Soon they can rent it.

Erin: Yeah.

Armando: I suppose, if I try to translate a question like, "can I have one?" into something we can ask on this podcast, it is really a question about why the product, why the PEBL, might be desirable. I know, at EVELO, we ask every person who makes a purchase why they bought, and we want to understand what helped them make that choice. Was it quality, great customer service, a great warranty? What is that for the PEBL? Give us the elevator pitch for the PEBL.

Erin: When somebody calls me and says, "I'm looking for an alternative transport, why should it be the PEBL?" I often say that, first of all, it's really fun to drive. It's cute, but also, on top of that, it's just a good product: the back hatch opens up into a trunk where you can fit six to eight bags of groceries; it has a back seat; it has the potential for 100 miles of range on a charge, and; it's efficient while not being too over-the-top. For me, alternative transport isn't meant to be like a car, where we want the newest, flashiest, fastest model. We want the thing that accomplishes what we need it to, but without all of the negative side effect of a car or a gas-emitting vehicle.

That's what I really like about the PEBL, is that it's not a thing where you're like, "Okay. Well, I guess I'll settle for a PEBL because I want to be greener." It's something that you're happy to switch to, and something that excites you about doing your part to try to limit your emissions. That's what I really find to be the best thing about the PEBL, is that nobody ever really finds that they're settling for that by going green. They're actually excited to make the switch to the PEBL.

Armando: That makes sense. We hear that a lot at EVELO. It is not a compromise, you ride it and love it, it's a lot of fun, and the PEBL looks like a lot of fun too. I watched a little video you had on YouTube where someone was driving a PEBL past a Road Closed sign, and it just looks like they were heading for a fun little adventure.

Erin: That was me! Oh yeah, that was me. That was really fun. That was earlier this year. I think the reason why we did that was because I went from a paved road onto a dirt road to really show the versatility of the PEBL. We do also have to off-road switch, which boosts the PEBL up to 1,500 watts. A lot of people get that if they're going to be driving around their property or off-road, things like that. It's a pretty popular thing. That video was fun because we got to show how the PEBL can do more than just paved roads.

Year Around Transportation

Armando: I'm enjoying learning about the PEBL and your company. Are there some things that I have not asked about or mentioned that you want to share with our audience?

Erin: I know that I wanted to quell some fears of any potential customers out there. I get a lot of inquiries from people towards the end of the year saying, "I really want a PEBL, but I think I'll wait till the spring because it's about to be cold out," but the PEBL is actually able to be driven in all weathers. We're in New England, and both Nevin and his dad drive their PEBL all through the year. You can get the heater installed, the doors fully close, so there's never a bad time to buy a PEBL.

Armando: Makes a lot of sense. I very much appreciate having you on the podcast. Thank you for joining me.

Erin: Thank you for having us.

Nevin: Yeah, thank you so much for having us.

Armando: I also want to thank you, the person listening to this, The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. I hope that you enjoyed learning about the PEBL, and learning, perhaps, a bit more about alternative transportation generally.

This podcast is really for you. We want you to find it interesting, entertaining and useful, so I want to know what you want to know. I want you to tell me what topics I should cover on the podcast. To do that, send an email to contact@evelo.com. Let me know what you want to hear about.

I also want you to go to evelo.com. Take a look at our Free Fit Consultation, it'll help you decide which bike's the right fit. Look at The Complete Electric Bike Buyer's Guide. You can buy that on Amazon or you can get it for free on our site. Nice, right?

I hope you enjoyed this episode. Take care until next time

Improbable in its form and unlikely in its function, an electric folding bike can be a convenient recreational ride. It can help you master intermodal transportation, and a folding bike may encourage personal well being.

There is a sense in which an electric folding bicycle is a transportation platypus.

The platypus is something of an unlikely animal. In a similar way, folding bikes can be an oddity. But both the platypus and the folding e-bike are surprisingly functional. Photo by by Prioryman.

 

“The first scientists to examine a specimen believed they were the victims of a hoax. The animal is best described as a hodgepodge of more familiar species: the duck (bill and webbed feet), beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur),” according to National Geographic.

In a similar way, some have wondered “why own a folding bike?” or “are folding bikes worth it?” Of course, the answer to these questions will be subjective. It will depend on how one rides, why one rides, and who that rider is. In spite of this subjectivity, there are, perhaps, at least three good reasons to consider a folding electric bike or even a folding conventional bicycle.

 

Mastering Intermodal Transportation

Folding electric bikes are excellent for intermodal commuting.

Let’s imagine that you live on Staten Island but work in Manhattan. Each morning, your loving spouse drives you down Carson Avenue to Victory Boulevard, takes a left turn on Bay Street, and drops you off at the St. George Ferry Terminal in time for the 7:00 am ferry.

You pull your Quest One folding electric bike out of the trunk, unfold it (which is easier than lugging it), and wheel it to the ferry. Some 25 minutes later, you pedal out of the Whitehall Terminal headed toward Water Street.

At work, you push the Quest One into the building and take the elevator up to the fifth floor. Your Quest One folds into a neat square and is tucked under the side draw in your cubicle.

If this was Metropolis, there should be a red “S” stamped on your folding bike, because it just did a super job of getting you to work.

Convenient Recreational Bicycling

A folding bike’s best trick is that it will fit in places a conventional bicycle will not. So you can keep a folding electric bike in a car trunk. It can be stuffed under a desk. It fits more easily in a small boat and in a recreational vehicle (RV). In short, a folding bike can make recreational riding more convenient. When something is more convenient, we tend to do it more often.

Personal Well Being

The last point above about convenience should not be understated. In fact, it bears repeating. When something like riding a bicycle is made easier or more convenient, we are more likely to do it.

One of the many benefits of an electric bike, for example, is that it encourages physical activity. “Whether it’s used as a vehicle for your daily commute or more specifically as a means of working out, an electric bike helps contribute to a more fit, active, and well-balanced lifestyle,” wrote Boris Mordkovich and Yevgeniy Mordkovich in chapter three of The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide.

“Introducing an electric bike into your regular travel transforms your daily commutes into an opportunity for some light physical activity and a chance to catch some fresh air. Electric bikes are particularly well suited for daily commuting since the motor assistance helps eliminate challenges such as steep hills and headwinds, and creates a smoother, less demanding cycling experience. By using an electric bike, commuters no longer have to worry about arriving at their destination feeling tired, sweaty, or worn out—the bike’s motor takes care of the overly strenuous portions of the ride while still allowing you to mix some physical exercise into your daily routine.”

Thus, the third good reason you should consider a folding electric bike is that it may encourage you to ride more. In turn, riding more could improve your well being.

 

Electric bicycles are an enjoyable part of alternative transportation. They can replace a trip you might otherwise take in a car, saving money and contributing to a better environment.

This week's podcast was an enjoyable conversation with Renée Moore. You will learn how Renée was introduced to bicycling and bicycle commuting, and hear something about the programs she manages which are meant to encourage bicycling. You can play the podcast and follow along with the transcript below.

Armando Roggio: Electric bikes are contagious. Once you have tried one, and conquered the worst hills in your neighborhood, it is natural to want to tell your friends about it.

You want them to experience the fun of riding an electric bike, or really any bike. Well, This is The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO and my name is Armando Roggio.

In this episode, we are going to be speaking with Renée more who is the program director for Bike Arlington in Virginia.

Renée thank you very much for being on the podcast with us.

Renée: Thanks for having me I'm excited to be here.

Renée Learned to Ride as an Adult

Armando Roggio: Renée how did you get started with bicycling and bicycle commuting?

Renée: I got started biking when I was 25. I didn't know how to ride a bike, I learned as an adult.

What happened was I would always see people biking and I thought that looks like fun, and because I never learned as a child I had never done it. And one Sunday at church there was a guy who asked me out on a date, and he said "what would you like to do?," and I said, " I want to learn how to ride a bike."

I don't even know if he knew how to ride a bike, I just sort of assumed that every adult knew how to ride a bike, except me.

So we went down to this place in D.C. ― I'm from originally D.C. We went down to Georgetown. We rented a bike, and he kind of like ran behind me as I got my balance, and in about an hour I was biking, and it kind of took off from there.

Riding for Fun

Renée: After I learned how to ride a bike I... There's a lot of stuff that happened to me. I ended up moving to Texas, and I did a half marathon there which I hated.

And then I decided I didn't want to do that again, and I met somebody... and she talked me into doing a triathlon because she said: "you get to do something different every 40 minutes, and you like to bike."

And I said, "but I don't like running, and I don't know how to swim." And she said "Oh, don't worry about that we teach you how to swim and all that" and they did. They taught me how to swim, and so I was pretty much like a new bicyclist slash triathlete for a long time.

And when I moved back home to D.C., I only road on a trail that had a couple of bike loops, but I had started because I wanted to ride with friends and people... With new people, everybody I had rode with had pretty much moved, and moved over twice after I came back from Texas.

Riding on Streets

Renée: I started this bike group and we were riding on trails. I had never ever considered using my bike as transportation ever that never dawned on me. And I took this class, a workshop called Black in the Night D.C.

And I went to that class because one of the people in my group had suggested it. It was about riding in the street, and riding at night, and riding in winter. Three things that I thought were absolutely insane to do. But I went and I sat in the back with anybody who made me look thirty. I sat in the back with my arms folded crossed across my chest I was a curmudgeon. I was like this is so dumb why would you ride in the street, and why would you ride at night, and why would you ride in the winter?

So they eventually got me on a bike at the end of the class, we rode and I thought. Wow, this isn't that bad at all I can ride in regular clothes. I don't have to buy any more spandex. This is kinda nice. And that's kinda what sold me was not having to buy any more spandex, and it took off from there.

That point what really did it actually I didn't immediately jump into biking in the street but what happened was my mom had a stroke a couple of months later. She was at this hospital, George Washington hospital, and it was $22 to park, and I was going up there every day. And I thought there's no way I'm going to spend $22 a day to park. I said "maybe I'll try to bike into instead, and I started biking up there every day to visit my mom, and it was therapeutic.

It really helped my kind of process what the next steps were gonna be when she got out of the hospital.

Connecting to the Community

Renée: I also discovered a lot of things about the city I grew up in that I never saw because I was always in a car driving past it. So it really opened my eyes to all the things that were in the city that I was passing up, and that I could go visit now because I could easily just pull up and you know park my bike, and go in, and go see it.

And from there I started working at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association as their women and bicycles coordinator. I had a few roles there. Now I'm at Bike Arlington in Arlington Virginia, and I'm the program manager.

Bicycle Advocacy

Armando Roggio: So you went from learning to ride a bike as an adult to being a triathlete to essentially working for a bike advocacy group. That is an impressive journey. Would you tell us a little bit more about how you got into the advocacy side of bicycling? Or maybe I should say how you got started promoting bicycling.

Renée: So what started at Washington Area Bicyclist Association or WABA, I don't think I really considered myself to be an advocate, I was just trying to get people on bikes. And I guess that's the whole point. I never said advocacy.

For my role, I went in as the women and bicycles coordinator, and the goal was to get more women on bikes. So my thing was to create short, fun rides to things, and it really wasn't about the bike or the ride it was really about the event, and you were going to get there by bike.

So I took a lot of time planning out the route and making sure that when we went on a route that sometimes we rode on a busy street, so people could see this is what it's like to be in traffic and be not in a car and just be on your bike. Or this is what it's like to be in a protected bike lane. What it's like to be on a trail.

Renée: I wanted to make it accessible so I always started the rides near bike share stations. So if someone didn't have a bike of their own they could get one from Capital Bikeshare. And we provided the coupons for that.

And that was really how I started, I guess I just never thought I was an advocate... It was advocacy. I just thought I was going to get people on bikes.

People would come to me — especially a lot of new people who wanted to ride, but they didn't want to ride in a big fast group of people. Or they didn't feel comfortable because they didn't have...a lot of lycra and spandex to put on, or they didn't have a really expensive car besides their bike. They rode with me because if you ever see my bike it's white, its got flowers all over it, its got, you know, a basket, it's like really...Clearly, when you see me I'm not going fast at all.

I think people were attracted to that, like oh I could ride with her because she's wearing heels and a dress. She's definitely not going anywhere fast, and I think that was appealing to a lot of people. Both men and women who would maybe go to some group and ride with them and find out this is a really fast advanced group. That may not wait for you.

This group we have no drops, we don't leave anyone behind. I go at an easy pace. I try to always make sure my routes are relatively flat. I can't always avoid that, but I do map it out and route it, and ride it myself to make sure that it's as flat as I can get it. Because that deters a lot of people when they see that there are hills all over the place. That was kind of how I started. I was not thinking I was an advocate. I just went into it like I just want to get more people riding bikes and thinking about it more. Hopefully, everyday recreation, if you can eliminate a car trip with using your bike.

Armando Roggio: That makes sense I had not realized that spandex was a barrier to getting folks on bicycles.

Renée: It just doesn’t look good on most people.

Armando Roggio: That's awesome. So obviously you have been doing this for a while with some success. You are now the program manager at Bike Arlington. Can you describe your role especially as it has changed from when you were working in Washington?

Renée: I started at Bike Arlington in March. So my role – as far as being in bicycling – it has changed since I have gone to that role.

I'm still doing a lot of rides with people. I'm trying to get more people in Arlington biking, and doing it in a fun creative ways. Saturday, we just did a pizza crawl. So we went to three different pizza places that sold pizza by the slice, and we did some streets, we did some with bike lanes, we did some trials, and they all experienced something new, and different, so that's kind of... I still do that, but I am also in charge of Bike to Work Day which is the third Friday of every May. And I'm trying to create and develop more interesting things for people to do.

Things with our Capital Bikeshare system, to get more people using that. And I work with some... I have some colleagues working together on that.

So it's somewhere just the same, but in other ways it is a little bit...It's the same and a little bit more, and it's also a new city that I'm working in. It's not very far from me because I grew up in the area, but I don't know that city, that county maybe as well as I know spots in D.C. where I grew up.

Armando Roggio: What is bike to work day? You said it was in May.

Renée: Yes, the third Friday in May here in the Washington area. Bike to Work Day usually brings out 20 thousand plus people who are biking to work, and we have pit stops all over the region where people can go and stop and they pick up juice and a T-shirt.

That's huge of course everyone wants the t-shirt, and it is a different color every year. So people have been collecting them since they started Bike to Work Day, and then we have... There's usually food, coffee, doughnuts, bananas, apples that kind of thing.

And we have a lot of vendors partners that come out with their things, and it ranges from all kinds of things.

This year I oversaw six pit stops across the Arlington county, and the biggest one was in a neighborhood, Rosslyn is what its called. You don't have cities in Arlington because I always want to call it a city and it's not. In Rosslyn, and we had a lawyer who specializes in just bike crashes because that's all he does. We had people who did physical therapy. We had a DJ. We had some of the people with electric scooters that were there. We had food vendors, and we had some bike advocates and just groups that went out just to bike. Kind of a mixture of all kinds of people that come out through the woods.

We partnered with the American Heart Association, or might be a friend of a certain trail. We had all of these people out there for that, and a lot of the vendors really look forward to it because it's a free event they don't have to pay to be a part of it, but it also exposes them to hundreds of people that they might not ever get to meet any other way except form Bike to Work Day.

Armando Roggio: Do you find the event introduces folks to bicycle commuting? Or is it really just a celebration of those folks who are already riding their bikes to work?

Renée: That's a great question we are trying to figure that out. It's a question that I've been asking since I even started doing this, and I don't know if we know.

The idea and the goal is that it’s a celebration of people that are already biking to work, and that it would bring out new people to commuting to work. I don't think they do quite know the separation. I don't know if we quite know that yet, but that's the question I'm always asking, and I'm like yeah new people, and it's the same people, and I'm thinking... There's nothing wrong with it, but I would like to see more new people coming and continuing, not just coming because we have this big event, but say, “hey, this is really nice. I'm not sitting in traffic and takes me less time, or maybe it takes you the same amount of time, but I'm outside. I'm in fresh air. I'm enjoying myself or whatever, it's so great, it makes my commute easier.”

I'm hoping that that's what happens that people do it and then they don't just bike to work on that third Friday in May. That they then bike to work on that following Monday, and however long they want to after that.

Bicycle Infrastructure

Armando Roggio: One thing that sometimes comes up in the context of bicycle commuting is infrastructure. How is the bicycling infrastructure in your area, and do you believe that infrastructure can be a barrier to getting started with bicycle commuting?

Renée: So I'm an anomaly actually. So I will tell you that I do...I grew up in D.C. when none of this was here, so I'm impressed with what happened.

There are other people here that would tell you that it needs so much more work to be done. I think a lot of it is great. My biggest issue when I have something to say about biking infrastructure is that it should connect to things. What I don't like to see is a bike lane that disappears, like you just have to pop up there, and then it just disappears two blocks latter because the bike lane is gone. Outside of that, I think that D.C. and Arlington has some really beautiful trails. They have some nice bike lanes. Are they perfect? No, but I grew up here when none of this was here. So I have a completely different perspective. I say to them – people who probably have been here for ten years, and seeing it progress or have come in the middle of it – I think what we have is pretty awesome considering none of this was here when I was little.

Safe Cycling

Armando Roggio: Great point. In many ways cycling infrastructure has improved tremendously.

Let's change direction with this a little bit. What about riders? What can we do to ride better in traffic, and maybe even make drivers feel more comfortable around us?

Renée: I think you should do what we teach riders in our city cycling class, obey the laws. Just following the laws of the road and the rules of the road. And so if there's a stop light, you stop. If there's a stop sign, you stop at it. You use hand signals so people know what you’re doing. So you're predictable basically. Just be predictable so people know what's happening when you're on the road.

I even — as someone who learned how to bike late in life and then learned even later in life to bike in traffic — I'm pretty comfortable now because one of the things that I learned is to take the lane, and so not to be afraid to be in the lane, and people will have to go around you.

You just be a slow-moving vehicle. I won't go on a highway and do that, but if I'm just on a regular street that's supposed to be moving at 25 miles an hour, I don't feel bad taking the lane, but what you don't want to do is kind of dart in and out of parked cars.

I see people do that sometimes and that's actually scary because cars don't know what you're doing. Are you pulling over to do something, and all a sudden you just come back into traffic. So that's confusing for car drivers. So I just say take the lane as far right as you can be without being in the zone of where somebody might open the door. The car door of the parked cars there, or not so far over in a place where there's debris and gravel where you can be hurt.

We are part of the public right of way traffic, and you have a right to be there. So that helped me a lot with biking is just obeying the rules of the road. My typical thing to think is if I wouldn't do it in a car, I probably shouldn't be doing it on my bike. So if I wouldn't run a red light in my car, I shouldn't run a red light on my bike. That's pretty much how I think that is as far as biking in the city.

Electric Bikes

Armando Roggio: So I happen to know that you used to be known, or maybe are still known as the “girl on a blue bike” on Twitter, but I understand that you now ride a white bike, and it is an e-bike. Can you tell us about your thoughts if you will around electric bicycles, and how do you think they help people get started on bikes, and on riding?

Renée: Wow, so I did have a blue bike. I'll try to explain that part. I had a blue bike named Olivia, and I loved her. She was awesome. And after I got it, I lived in a hilly area, I worked in a hilly area, and a few months or so after I bought that bike I heard about this e-kit called a Hill Popper, an electric assistant kit called a Hill popper.

And they said you could retrofit your bike with this, the wheel and the battery pack. So I took my bike in... I saved up for it, and I took my bike in, and they put it on, and it made a world of difference in my biking.

Now I was able to go places that I would normally drive to because I didn't want to climb a hill. So this made it possible for me to not have to take my car everywhere. I had the bike for about three years maybe, and it was the battery. I had to keep replacing the battery, and so I decided after the third time I replaced the battery maybe I should upgrade.

And I wasn't quite ready, but I saw that someone on Facebook had posted an e-bike for a price that I was was shocked that it was. So I went over the next day because I thought it was a typo.

So I was like "is this bike really for sale?" And he was like "yeah", and I went over there the next day and I bought it, and it's white, and I just didn't change my name on Twitter because nobody liked girl on a white bike. It just didn't have the same ring, so I just left it at girl on a blue bike. So, but I love this bike, this bike is Calypso. It has red flowers on it. I've decked her out with red and white accessories, but this bike does even better than the blue one does because the battery is stronger, it's not retrofitted to the bike. I don't have the kind of problems that I did have with the other bike sometimes, is that I replaced so many car trips with this bike. I grocery shop with it. I run errands with it. I take it to work almost every day it if it’s not raining or snowing.

I ride it all year long, and it has been a godsend.

It is heavy. Its is so heavy. I don't enjoy bringing it in and out of my apartment because its three steps up to my apartment, but I do it. I do it every day because it really just makes my life easier. And I don't... I mean I save money on gas in my car. I probably put gas in my car twice a month. I can get an oil change once a year. That's how little I end up driving because she is able to just... I able to just kind of hop on it and go, and it usually just places I'm going are ten to twelve miles away.

Or actually, I usually can just pretty much bike there as long as I'm not getting on the highway. If I have to get there by highway, I can pretty much do most of the stuff I need on my e-bike.

So I think it makes a huge difference for people for transportation. It allows you to go places they wouldn't... They would normal drive to. It allows people who have some type of pain or injury to be able to ride when maybe a regular bike causes too much pain, and an e-bike allows you turn on the peddle assist, and kinda ease through that pain. Or even turn on the throttle if you want it.

Armando Roggio: Renée you've been an excellent guest I really appreciate you coming on the podcast. Is there anything else you'd like to say to our audience? Perhaps about electric bikes, cycling, bicycling commuting, or anything really?

Renée: Yeah I think that if you haven't tried an electric bike . I often hear people say "oh, you're cheating, you're on a e-bike” or I'm talking to someone who is often in a truck telling me this, I'm like "okay, I'm cheating,” but their driving a truck whatever. But test out an e-bike, and take it up some hills and see what it's like.

Before you comment on it, and pass judgment that its cheating, or you don't need it, and all these other things. Or It goes to fast. Test one out and see what it’s like because they are fun to ride, but they can and do replace a lot of car trips for people.

And it helps people get out more than they normally would. I think than on a regular bike. Some people will ride their regular bike all the time, I'm not saying that they don't, but there are some people that would ride actually more if they knew that. They would ride more and longer if they had an e-bike in their possession or access to one. Because they can. Because it does go farther. It does get them up hills. It is a lot of fun to ride. You'll definitely want one once you try it out.

Armando Roggio: Do you think it’s a good idea for people to try an electric bike share as a way to try an e-bike?

Renée: Yeah, we have in D.C., we have e-bikes here it’s part of a bike share system that's called Jump Bike. And I do see a lot of people riding them especially in a hillier area, and people who I know that I have talked to who have thought e-bikes were cheating. Have tried out those Jump Bikes and they are like, "yeah, this is a game-changer." I said, "I know it really makes a difference."

Again how you'll ride, and where you'll ride. I think it makes a huge difference for people to do that. Places that normally people might say, "oh, I'll just take an Uber there" or maybe "I'll take the train there". They get on their e-bike and realize, oh, I can bike there. I can do that, that's not bad at all. It does make a big difference, so yeah, I think they should test it out with part of a bike-share system if they have one in their city. It's a lot of fun.

Armando Roggio: Thank you again I very much appreciate having you on the podcast.

Renée: Thank you. Thanks for having me I appreciate it.

Armando Roggio: And I want to thank you, yes you the one listening. These podcasts are made for you, and I want to do my best to interview folks you want to hear from. If you have a suggestion or recommendation please email contact@avello.com and just say, “hey, this is what I would like to hear next” or maybe even just email and say how much you like this show. Please also check out The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide. I think you will love it. Thank you very much take care.