E-bikes the missing puzzle piece
As sales of electric assist bicycles (e-bikes) continue to boom around the world, in China and Europe in particular, one must wonder how much longer it will be before e-bikes become common here in Australia. Anecdotally, over the past seven years of daily commuting and utility cycling, I have seen less than a dozen on our roads and paths.
Although all tiers of government in Australia still have a long way to go to provide safe and effective bicycle paths and associated infrastructure, the e-bike really is a practical answer to many people’s reasons to not ride a bike for commuting and other practical purposes.
My father purchased one for himself a couple of years ago from a Perth company, so I’ve had the chance to experience what they are like first hand. Essentially, e-bikes make riding that bit easier and more convenient. This is especially true for people who are unfit or have physical disabilities, live in areas of extreme climates, need to carry extra gear or equipment, have long commute distances, and/or have steep hills that they can’t avoid on their route. E-bikes address all of these constraints.
Thanks to the booming sales outside of Australia, e-bikes are rapidly developing to address their shortfalls and become less expensive, lighter, more energy efficient, and have longer range between charges. Combined with safe and well connected bicycle infrastructure, e-bikes could very well be the missing piece of the puzzle that helps get regular, everyday Australians out of private motor vehicles and onto bikes instead.
Common sense required for transport solutions
Only in the Byron Bay region could there be an ongoing ‘war’ between supporters of a proposed bicycle rail trail and those proposing a resurrection and resumption of rail services within the region encompassing Byron Bay, Ballina and Lismore.
My take on the topic, after spending the past six months living, working and cycling in the region, is that both provision of bicycle infrastructure and public transport are both sorely lacking. I’ve found it quite ironic that an area so well-known for its environmentalism, progressive culture and politics is so utterly dependant on private motor vehicles. Perth, with an infamous reputation for its LA-style ‘car is king’ attitude, was actually much easier to get around by bicycle than it is in the Byron region.
For some reason, traffic planners and road engineers in New South Wales seem to believe that riding a bicycle on the shoulder of the motorway with 100-110km/h speed limits and heavy traffic is a perfectly acceptable solution to travel by bicycle between towns. Let me tell you, there’s a good reason why I’ve only seen a handful of cyclists actually using these ‘bike lanes’.
The reality is that there is no single solution to transport problems in urban and regional areas. One thing is clear though: continued population growth combined with lack of alternatives to using a car will only cause more issues associated with car dependence; including traffic congestion, loss of productivity, poor health and road accidents. There needs to be a united, holistic, and pragmatic approach to transport solutions in Australian towns and cities. This includes serious funding and commitment for public transport, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and, of course, roads.
Always be prepared
I recently helped a friend build up a single-speed road bike to use as a weekend cruiser and work commuter. Given it was a Sunday afternoon and the weather was magnificent, we decided to take the bike on a maiden voyage up to a local café and back.
The ride was only 5km each way, but I decided, last minute, to bring a spare tube, tyre levers, patch kit and a compact pump with me – just in case! The tube, repair kit and tools are all kept in a repurposed, modified plastic drink container, so they are easy to carry in the spare water bottle cage without the need for backpacks or other storage bags. I’ve only had one tube puncture in seven years of daily riding, but I have a borderline compulsive habit of always carrying spare parts and tools with me, even on short rides.
As luck would have it, my friend experienced a blowout just 3km down the road. But, since we were conveniently prepared, all we had to do was find a shady, grassy area to pull the wheel off and change the tube; pocketing the punctured tube to be patched later once we got home. The process took about 10 minutes between the two of us, and we were back on the road happily cruising.
Unfortunately, it became evident that whatever had caused the first puncture was not done, as my friend had another blow out on the same wheel on the way home. Feeling less enthusiastic, but still happy to be prepared, we went about removing the tube, locating and removing the tiny shard of glass embedded in the tyre causing our dramas, patched the tube, replaced and inflated it, and then made our way home without further dramas. Always be prepared!
Thanks for reading my first column for The New Daily.
The goal is to write about the sport we love, and the little things that make it so cool. You can expect to read about issues faced by the everyday rider, the technology that makes riding easier, and the people – just like you – and the stories you have.
For story ideas and tips, please email me here. Happy riding.