In the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen a nationwide biking growth as folks search socially-distanced methods to get round, get bodily exercise, and have enjoyable, and Chicago isn’t any exception. I’m undoubtedly seeing extra folks biking on the North Facet this summer time than I did final final yr. This summer time I joined the ranks of e-bike house owners after my non-electric bike was stolen. I used to be already keen on these bikes and changing into an proprietor has impressed a analysis binge.
Unsurprisingly, e-bike gross sales have soared together with conventional bikes throughout COVID-19. In line with bike business market evaluation, electrical bike gross sales have been up 84 % in March, 92 % in April, and 137 % in Could. Chicagoland bike outlets report they’re typically seeing a rise in gross sales, together with e-bikes, as a result of pandemic.
Eric Krzystofiak, basic supervisor for Wheel & Sprocket in Evanston and Oak Park says he doesn’t count on the rise in e-bike gross sales to decelerate anytime quickly. “Our clients haven’t skilled any delays in getting the bike they need. As increasingly more folks discover out they will substitute a automobile and get a great exercise with an e-bike, we count on the recognition to proceed to develop.”
I checked in with new e-bike house owners to listen to about their experiences. Sarah Candy and her husband and son lives in Ravenswood. They have been contemplating shopping for an electrical automobile however discovered there weren’t a whole lot of reasonably priced choices. Her husband discovered Four Star Family Cyclery and recommended they check experience bikes. After renting a motorbike for a weekend and testing it out with their son, they have been offered.
Candy stated earlier than discovering e-bikes she by no means felt all that protected and cozy biking. “We have been getting type of tired of walks and the bike simply opened up our world. We haven’t pushed our automobile within the 2 months we’ve had the e-bike.” After shopping for an e-bike, Candy is extra vocal about her want for protected bike lanes and safe bike parking at her office. She says folks ask her questions on her bike each day. “Most individuals have an interest within the electrical half. ‘Is there a motor? Do you pedal? How do you park it? How typically do you cost it?’ I get a whole lot of curiosity on the farmer’s market. It’s enjoyable!”
Christine Velez lives in Streeterville along with her husband and her two-year-old daughter. She bought her e-bike in response to unreliable transit entry as a result of Mayor Lori Lightfoots’s transit shutdowns throughout latest civil unrest, and hopes rides along with her daughter will present a brand new supply of sensory stimulation. On the subject of storing her bike, she’s lucky sufficient to dwell in a constructing with a devoted bike storage room on the bottom flooring, and it’s geared up with monitored cameras. For Chicagoans with out entry to such facilities, town would do properly to create safer on-street parking on residential streets. I discussed this in my article, “How Can Chicago Support the e-bike Revolution?”
Steven Quipse of Albany Park bought his VanMoof e-bike with stimulus funds in April. “The large enchantment for an e-bike was with the ability to go longer distances with out being tremendous sweaty,” he stated. “With the ability to simply bike on an excellent windy day was additionally an enormous enchantment.” I requested Steven if he had any memorable rides in windy situations. He stated he was truly out biking the day Chicago skilled tornadoes! “I did slide slightly bit but it surely wasn’t as unhealthy in comparison with if I had been on an everyday bike.”
Quispe mentioned a few of the responses to his bike. “The most typical response is folks considering it’s unlocked.” Quispe’s bike has a built-in kick lock. You activate the kick lock by aligning the wheel to a marked spot and kicking the lock in together with your toe. This freezes the rear wheel till the bike proprietor unlocks it with an app or a passcode. There are additionally GPS capabilities embedded within the bike which permit the proprietor to see the place it’s. Within the occasion the bike is stolen, VanMoof sends out people to trace the bike down.
“I’ve had about 5 theft makes an attempt and some of my co-workers have assumed I’ve been absent-minded by not locking my bike up,” Quispe stated. shared a narrative of a involved citizen reporting his bike as deserted. Steven acquired an alert that his bike was being tampered with and located Chicago Police within the strategy of hauling it away. He was capable of present that he was the proprietor of the bike and police inspired him to lock it up.
Requested what modifications he’s observed in his biking expertise on account of with the ability to go sooner. “I can now beat the Brown Line from my dwelling to the Loop. Biking saves me about 10-Quarter-hour. I’m additionally happening longer rides.” Analysis has proven e-bike riders ride longer distances than those riding a traditional bike.
Requested about interactions with drivers, Steven famous that drivers will not be getting used to encountering somebody on a motorbike driving so quick, which is one thing I can relate to. Now we have each had experiences with drivers making turns in entrance of us that compelled us to brake shortly to keep away from a crash. I’ve had some motorists try to alter lanes and be shocked by my pace.
My final interview was with Martha and Margaret, a pair who dwell in Ravenswood together with their two youngsters. Margaret was in wanted a brand new bike as a result of a motorbike she was given at age 14 was able to be retired. The couple was additionally uncomfortable driving the CTA throughout the pandemic. In addition they love being outdoors throughout the hotter months and felt biking might improve their enjoyment of the outside.
Martha and Margaret discover their electrical cargo bike to be an enchancment over transporting their youngsters by bike trailer. They will maintain a greater eye on their youngsters, since they’re not driving in an enclosed house, they usually now not need to yell so as to talk.
Requested if there’s something town might do to assist e-bike house owners or biking usually, Margaret responded, “Oh my gosh! I’d love extra protected bike lanes throughout town. I don’t like having to analysis my route earlier than going someplace. Plenty of the bike lanes in our areas are on busy streets.”
Martha and Margaret praised the Leland Sluggish Road of their neighborhood, and the parking-protected bike lane on Broadway, and stated they wish to see extra of them. They did have some complaints about dockless e-scooters taking over house on the bike racks. “Individuals are driving their bikes extra throughout the pandemic, so we want extra bike racks. The scooter firms ought to need to pay to [intall] extra bike racks if their merchandise are going to be utilizing the house.”
The pandemic bike growth could have been an opportunity to upgrade bicycling facilities for all bike riders, not simply e-bike house owners. I’m seeing extra riders on the streets, they usually’re all biking regardless of the sub-par infrastructure. Think about what number of extra people would experience if we had bicycling services that prevented driver-cyclist crashes and stopped folks from parking or driving within the house meant for biking. Together with a want for extra protected lanes, I wish to see town put money into e-bike charging infrastructure. There’s been a whole lot of motion to make sure electrical automobile house owners have entry to charging stations, and we should always do the identical for electrical bikes. It might be good to see charging stations alongside the Lakefront Path, at Chicago Public Library areas, and at main transit hubs.
I’m excited to see extra folks out on e-bikes. I’ve been casually noticing just a few right here and there after I’m out. Among the people interviewed talked about that due to their e-bike buy, some co-workers and neighbors have seemed into shopping for an e-bike. I’m certain the Divvy e-bikes will even improve people’ curiosity in proudly owning an e-bike. Authorities subsidies for the acquisition of e-bikes would even be a welcome addition to the sustainable transportation panorama right here in Chicago.
Comply with Courtney Cobbs on Twitter at @CourtneyCyclez.