ebike

The inconvenience of cycling

Slow down, indeed.

Slow down, indeed.

This morning, I rolled out of my house around 7:10am to make it to my chiropractor appointment at 7:30am.  Of all the steeds in my stable, I chose the E-Bike to get there, and wore “normal” clothes, (as in, regular pants and jacket, not a cycling kit).  I had a bright red jacket on, my bike is bright red, and this time of year it’s full-on daylight at this time of the morning. 

I chose (fairly) lightly-traveled, low-speed limit roads plus a large portion of bike path to get from home to my destination.  It was, however, still rush-hour.  (Insert typical cyclist rant about a motorist buzzing or side-swiping…)

Today is day 4 of my #carfreeweek … I committed to riding and not driving this week, Tuesday through Sunday. (Monday was raining so I went for 6/7).  This means my car is locked in the garage for 6 days, no matter what. Between weather and schedule, this week presented the perfect opportunity to ditch the car keys for a week.

Keep in mind, I own a perfectly lovely vehicle.  I absolutely love my Toyota 4runner.  LOVE IT.  I can throw the bikes, dogs and anything else in the back, it drives through any kind of snow or conditions, I feel safe it in, it has a wonderful sound system and sunroof.  She’s black and looks totally badass when she’s all cleaned up.  (She’s nicknamed Black Mamba (you Kill Bill fans will get it)).  I like my car a lot. 

So …it occurred to me this morning, after several large trucks and SUVs (all carrying just one person, the driver, by the way) buzzed me closely, giving me far less than three feet, (and one hothead Cadillac-guy took a curve super hot, nearly side-swiping me), that it’s ironic how motorists view me on my E-bike doing 20mph, as inconvenient.  That I should have the audacity to force them to slow their roll for a moment, to pause behind me when there is an oncoming car, and to give me the three-feet I am allowed by law… that these gestures (also known as safe and courteous driving techniques) would be so inconvenient to passing motorists that they choose instead to risk my health and bodily safety so that they can maintain their over-the-posted-speed-limit-speed … is ironic. 

Because- I am the one inconvenienced.  I left my wonderful 4runner home in the garage – the vehicle that would have carried me most safely, and most expeditiously, to my destinations today. The 4Runner would have provided me heated seats this morning, A/C later today, and commercial-free bass-bumping beats via satellite radio.  The 4runner would’ve ensured my hair was unfussed (unmussed? whatever you know what I mean) and I was sweat-free when I got to where I was going.  Make-up perfect, clothing unwrinkled.  I mean, clearly, the car is THE convenient way for me to transport myself. 

And yet.  I chose to sweat, rock helmet-hair, take longer to get where I was going, be cold this morning and hot later today, tunes-free with chilly air blowing in my ears.  I am the one inconvenienced by my decision to ride instead of drive. 

In so choosing, I made a few other choices, too:

I decided to reward my body and brain with restorative movement – to get my blood pumping, to burn some calories, to absorb some Vitamin D and move my body.  That means I am decreasing the odds I will be a burden to our health care system; the chances are lower that I’ll need pills to sleep, pills to wake up, pills to feel happier, pills to lose weight, or expensive hospital stays to combat the ill effects of being overweight, under-exercised, and to cope with deteriorating health.  My ride means I am investing in my health in a way that does not contribute to our burdened healthcare providers, hospitals, and insurers.   

Countries around the world are only starting to tabulate health care savings due to bicycling. Denmark, which plans to expand its bicycle highway network after such a project in Copenhagen’s suburbs was judged a success, estimates the country saves €40 million annually ($53.3 million) on health care costs. That is ... an impressive sum in a nation of 5.6 million people.
— https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2013/how-bicycling-cuts-health-care-costs-businesses/59121

I decided not to impose any wear and tear on our roadways.  A human on her bicycle inflicts approximately ZERO negative influence on our roadways.  Whereas, my 4runner and any other vehicle beats up our streets and leads to them, over time, needing expensive repairs and upgrades- today, I did not beat up on any concrete or asphalt.  The streets did not suffer as a result of my need to transport myself. 

It would take 700 trips by bicycle to equal the damage caused by one Smart Car.
— https://streets.mn/2016/07/07/chart-of-the-day-vehicle-weight-vs-road-damage-levels/

I decided to exhale Co2 – aka, produce substantially less CO2 than driving:

Traveling 2 miles (3.2 kilometers):
By car: 0.88 kg CO2
Walking: 0.039 kg CO2
Riding a bike: 0.017 kg CO2
Walking or riding a bicycle does reduce the production of CO2 relative to driving.
— https://www.globe.gov/explore-science/scientists-blog/archived-posts/sciblog/index.html_p=186.html

I decided to burn fat and not fuel.  Stating the obvious here. (And, yes, it’s an E-bike, so it was charged, which does use electricity, so alright there’s that). 

I decided to spend $0 – I didn’t have to pay for fuel, or a car wash, or vehicle maintenance to ride my bike today.  I simply rode. For free.  On a bicycle that does not depreciate or require of me the upkeep that my vehicle does.  (Wanna be a millionaire? Check this out).

I chose happiness over convenience.  Even with the close calls, riding my bike still makes me –and leaves me –happier than when I drive.  Road rage inside a vehicle is a thing.  I don’t experience that on my bike.  (Perhaps I should, since I am far more vulnerable and I experience far more close calls which would really have serious implications for me than close calls in my car).  But –as it stands, the bike makes me happy. 

I see something cool every single time I ride.  Birds.  Grass.  Flowers.  Dogs with their heads hanging out the back window of the car they are riding in. A motorist with their window down, waving at me. A horse, donkey, you name it. 

This state of hyper-stress has contributed immensely to the staggering growth of serious health issues we face today. Many turn to medications for stress and anxiety and mindlessly consume large amounts of caffeine, sugar and refined junk just to get through another day.

Mindfully taking the opposite approach, slowing down when we can, becoming unhurried can benefit and enhance our lives physically, spiritually and mentally. And we just might accomplish more.
— https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11668/why-you-need-to-slow-down-for-better-health.html

So, motorists perceive me on my bike as an inconvenience.  But instead, I did drivers a favor today; I didn’t contribute to traffic mayhem.  That massive I-70 closure this morning that forced traffic into alternate routes?  Yeah … I wasn’t a participant in that.  I actually removed a car from the traffic jam.  I got sweaty and my hair was messed up.  I showed up to work engaged, awake, alert, friendly, happy, and motivated.  I burned calories, I thought about things (this article, for one), I processed some stress. 

My ride made me a better human, a better member of your community, and a better employer/lawyer/friend/daughter/dog-momma.  I asked a runner to take my photo and I got to talk to a stranger for a minute.  Not bad, inconvenient bicycle, not bad.

I chose inconvenience today (and every day) when I pick my bike over my car.  I don’t expect thanks or appreciation from motorists, but I do demand and deserve respect as an equal road user.  Instead of seeing cyclists as inconveniences, motorists, I’d appreciate it if you kept these things in mind next time you see me on the roadway. 

Want to Change Your Commuting Habits? What about a Cargo Bike?

Trying to figure out how to leave your car in the garage more often and spend less time behind the wheel? The answer might just be a cargo bike.

 Cargo bikes have been around since the early 20th century and were originally used by tradesmen to deliver goods before the invention of the automobile. Nowadays, they are extremely popular in Europe and Asia and are used for both recreational and business purposes:  taking kids to school, transporting groceries, family bike rides, and for delivering mail and packages.

 Using cargo bikes can cut down on noise and air pollution. They can be quicker than using cars or delivery vans. Finding parking is also not as difficult in the city. Of course, there is also the health benefit to riding a bike. It is a great way to get in shape!

Despite their practicality, cargo bikes are less frequently used in North America, although they are slowly starting to catch on in the United States.

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 UPS, which started in Seattle in 1907 as a bicycle messenger company, announced last year that it would start using electric cargo bicycles to deliver packages in Pike Place Market and downtown Seattle in order to reduce congestion.

Denverite Melissa Colonno is a huge fan of cargo bikes and bought hers in October 2017. While living in Seattle from 2008-2012, Melissa and her husband biked a lot and remember seeing several longtail cargo bikes. Around the time their first child arrived in 2012, Melissa started seeing Madsen (a US brand) “bucket bikes” on social media and immediately wanted one.

As her family grew, Melissa tried out various ways to transport her children.

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“When our first child was around one year old, we bought a Yepp bike seat to bike with her around Denver. This worked well. Then, when we were about to have our second child, we bought a Chariot stroller that could also be a bike trailer. We used this frequently to bike with our two kids.”  Melissa has always been intrigued by cargo bikes and once she was pregnant with her third child, she became even more resolved to get one!

When it came time to buy a cargo bike, Melissa and her husband did more research and decided they wanted a tricycle with the cargo box in the front.


She wanted to feel very stable while riding and stopping and wanted to be able to see her kids without having to turn around.
Melissa ordered a Nihola 4.0 with a BionX e-assist from a bike shop in Sacramento, California called from Practical Cycles. They import Niholas from Copenhagen, Denmark.

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The Nihola is unique among trikes in that the steering is independent of the cargo, meaning that you do not have to move the weight of the cargo to steer; Melissa adds that is not difficult to ride or steer. It maneuvers very much like a “regular” bike. However, it might not have quite the same speed and maneuverability as an inline (two wheeled) cargo bike. People who are used to high-speed road bikes may prefer an inline cargo bike to a trike. Since her cargo bike has an electric assist, she can go plenty fast if necessary, but usually she goes slower to stay safe and enjoy the ride.

The Nihola 4.0 has two bench seats which easily fit four children. The maximum load of the cargo box is 265 pounds. There are two Y-harnesses and a lap belt. Both benches are removable, so they currently have one bench removed so that their youngest can sit in a car seat for extra support.

Why choose a cargo bike over a trailer? Melissa says that a trailer worked well enough for transporting her kids. However, a cargo bike is far superior in her opinion. The bike is always ready to go since you do not have to deal with hooking the trailer to the bike. In a cargo bike, the kids are closer to the rider, and usually have a better view of the things around them, which makes the riding experience more enjoyable. Also, trailers get very heavy to pull as the weight of your children increases.

Owning a cargo bike has dramatically affected her car use. She is driving significantly less since purchasing her cargo bike. Her goal is to bike anywhere within a three-mile radius unless the roads are too icy, or there is another safety concern. Since Melissa and her family live near downtown Denver, they can get to many things by bike!

Melissa uses her cargo bike regularly to transport her two oldest kids to and from school, but they use it for many other purposes, too! She frequently uses the cargo bike to run errands; it fits all her family’s groceries! She uses the bike anytime they go somewhere that is just a bit too far to walk. If Melissa and her husband are going to the park for a picnic, they will take the cargo bike, so they can transport their food and lawn chairs. Basically, they use it for carrying all kinds of cargo!

She’s often amazed that biking to places does not take that much longer than driving, and you rarely have to worry about parking! Most importantly, biking makes for a much more enjoyable journey.

cargo bike view.JPG

Generally, people are really excited when they see the cargo bike according to Melissa. They get a lot of stares and some comments; almost always positive. People often say things like “nice set-up!” or “can I get a ride?” Occasionally, people will ask more specifics about where they got it or what the brand is. Melissa tries to “sell” one to everyone who is interested!

In her opinion, so many people would benefit from replacing some of their driving with biking. “Getting outside and being physical has such a positive impact on your quality of life. We live in such a car-centric society, but it hasn’t always been that way and it isn’t in many parts of the world. People sometimes question the safety of my bike set up, but I’m quick to point out that driving is not without risks.”


If you are interested in buying a cargo bike, you should definitely do your research. There are many websites, Facebook groups, and bike shops that can provide advice. Depending on how you plan to use your bike and what type of cargo you want to carry, there are many options from utility bikes to cargo tricycles to electric cargo bikes. New bikes are coming out all the time, so there is definitely a good option for everyone. A cargo bike is a financial investment; but much cheaper than a car!

Melissa Colonno is the author of DELIBERATE.LESS. She provides day-to-day tips on reducing household waste and creating a life that strives to be less hectic. Melissa is passionate about decreasing her family’s waste and environmental footprint by making informed and intentional choices. Melissa holds educational sessions about reducing household waste to individuals, school groups, and professionals.

Want to Change Your Commuting Habits? How about an E-Bike?

A Change of Heart

GUEST BLOG BY HUDSON LINDENBERGER

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Hudson Lindenberger is an award-winning writer and editor based in Boulder, Colorado. He believes that life is full of interesting stories, and his goal is to tell as many of them as possible. As a full-time freelance writer, he is always searching out and following interesting paths while maintaining a smile on his face. Hudson is the father of two adult daughters, an active outdoorsman, and an avid traveller. You can learn more by visiting http://hudsonlindenberger.com.

“You bought an electric bike?” My buddy cried out incredulously. “What’s next? You going to start wearing a beret and smoking cigarettes?” He sat back snickering over his beer looking dubiously at me. I can’t say that I blamed his attitude, just a little while ago I was him, I was the guy mocking people on electric assist bikes.

When I moved to Colorado two decades ago, I was like most new residents, the chance to get outside and into adventures was intoxicating. I first moved to Nederland—that funky, flaky town perched above Boulder. During my three years there, my closet swelled with day packs and hiking shoes as I explored the Front Range. Upon moving into Arvada, I found myself going on bigger trips. The tops of high peaks called, and overnight trips beckoned. Very quickly, I had a full array of camping gear. Like most Coloradans, my gear addiction had started.

My move into Boulder a decade ago really allowed me to dive deep into the outdoors. I started climbing, skiing, and trail running whenever possible, but my true passion became cycling. I became a spandex wearer and started to shave my legs. My garage became cluttered with bikes of all sizes for my family. There were cruiser bikes, mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, and road bikes. Whenever possible, my wife and I would jump on our road bikes and roam the hillsides and flats surrounding my town.

I had become an avid cyclist, and I loved it. The effort of climbing hills and blasting down their backsides was wonderful. I could easily spend a few hours out with friends working up a sweat and having fun. But when I saw people zipping by on electric bikes, I would turn my nose up at them. “Fake riders, cheaters, earn your miles,” were just a few of the phrases that came out of my mouth.

When the chance for my wife and I to relocate to France popped up three years ago, we decided to go for it. It had been a dream of ours to live abroad, and we figured Lyon, France sounded like a great spot to try it. Pretty soon we boarded a plane with two large bags each, two road bikes in travelling cases, a dog, and a cat. There was no way we were going to the land of Le Tour without bringing our bikes.

Within days of our arriving, we were out exploring our new home on our road bikes. Living in the hilltop village of St Cyr au Mont D’Or just outside of Lyon proper, we had plenty of places to explore. The French cyclists embraced the crazy Americans and the drivers were courteous—not like here in the States. While we got used to the more relaxed lifestyle in France, we also started to notice that there were a lot of electric bikes around. The mailmen rode them to deliver the mail, old ladies rode them into town, commuters used them to get into and out of the city, and large groups of older men ripped through the trails on them.

Gradually, my attitude started to soften. My interest was piqued. When we took a trip to Copenhagen in the summer, my wife and I decided to rent ones while we were there. They actually have an electric bike share program throughout the city. It only took one day of exploring the city for me to be hooked, it was a blast. I remember thinking what was my problem with electric bikes? All around me I saw people commuting throughout the busy metropolis on bikes of all shapes and sizes, both electric and not. Instead of streets packed bumper to bumper with stinky smelly cars, there were bikes zipping up bike lanes, down alleyways, and on streets.

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When we left to head back home, I decided that I wanted to get an electric bike when we got back to Boulder. Sure, I had a good cruiser bike waiting here, but truth be told, I rarely rode it. In the summer it made me a sweaty mess, and in the winter I did not want to deal with the hassle of it. Instead, I did most of my commuting in town in my car. I had good intentions of riding it more, but just could not find the motivation to do it.

… Instead, I was another car clogging up the streets of Boulder.


As most residents of our state know a lot of people are moving here. In fact, only four states have had a higher percentage of growth since 2010. There are currently 5.7 million people living inside our borders with roughly another 75,000 arriving each year. It is phenomenal growth and one that is taxing our infrastructure. Roads are getting more crowded and are falling apart quicker. I used to be able to drive across Boulder at rush hour in 10-15 minutes when I moved here, now I am lucky to make it in 30 minutes. More cars lead to higher pollution levels, angrier people, and more accidents. Regardless of what our elected officials do, the reality is the system is slowly getting swamped.

But imagine if we could get more people riding bikes. Instead of adding to the congestion of heading to work, the gym, or grocery in their car, they hop on their bike. The latest statistics show that biking is growing. Last year, 47.5 million Americans said they rode a bike at least once a month, that is 12.4% of our population. Of those riders, almost 25% of them are adults between the ages of 30-49.

One way to encourage more people to bike is to improve the infrastructure and incentivize people to ride more. Electric bikes are perfectly poised to draw more people out of their cars and onto a bike. Look at China for example. In 2000, there were 300,000 electric bikes sold, by 2016 that number was up to 33 million a year. Across Asia, electric bike sales are soaring, and they are starting to quickly infiltrate Western Europe, the number two market for them. In America, they are just starting to appear in cities and towns, especially areas with high densities of young working adults looking for a way to break free of their cars.

Within days of buying my electric bike, I quickly changed my habits. I started jumping on it for any errands in town. Meeting people for a cup of coffee was a breeze and shopping for groceries became simple once I added on pannier bags. Best of all, whenever I arrived anywhere, I was not a sweaty mess that had to sit down and cool off before meeting anyone. My wife (she bought one too) would go out to dinner on them. If I wanted to have one more glass of wine, I might have it since I was not crawling behind the wheel of a car.

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When winter arrived, I would just toss on my windproof jacket and gloves and head out, provided the roads were clear of snow. I actually found myself monitoring the weather forecast to know if I could leave the car parked. My weight dropped, I felt great, and best of all, I could zip to anywhere in town often faster than I ever would have in a car. After six months, my bike’s odometer showed that I had logged almost 500 miles and close to 36 hours of ride time. That’s all entirely inside the city, time I would have been in my car. Plus, I still get out on my road and mountain bikes when the weather cooperates.

So, it’s safe to say that my attitude about electric bikes has changed. I have become an advocate of them. They could be one of the solutions to the problems that our state, country, and planet are dealing with. Transportation overcrowding and the subsequent issues that that causes. Electric bikes won’t solve everything, but they could help.

An additional note from Megan:

Last December I too joined the #ebike revolution and invested in a Stromer from my local bike shop (C3 Bike Shop in Golden). I LOVE riding this bike -I can run legitimate errands averaging over 15mph and not be exhausted or fatigued for my cycling training/intervals. I can ride in nice dress clothes and not break a sweat, arriving at my destination “put-together” instead of a hot sweaty mess.

In addition the extra “oomph” will make it possible for me to hook up my doggie-specific Burley (once the snow melts) and tow my 55# dog, Phoenix, in the back, while my other dog Ramsey runs alongside (or rides with her sister). This combined weight would not be feasible for me on a regular bike, but with an E-bike, #allthingsarepossible.

Comment below if you’ve got an ebike, tell us which one you got, and what you love about it!