Swapping car seats for electric bike saddles in WA
ABC News, 1 September 2016
The wheels are turning on a cycling revolution across Australia. Electric bicycles, known as e-bikes, have surged in popularity as an increasing number of people ditch driving for pedal power with an electric battery boost.
Retailer Daniel Whiting, who has 10 years’ experience distributing e-bikes, expanded to manufacturing the vehicles four years ago after a surge in demand.
His two Queensland stores sell about 1,400 e-bikes a year, which Mr Whiting said was double the number of sales two years ago.
“The awareness and enquiry level is much, much higher,” he said.
The emergence of e-bikes in Europe was the biggest shift and growth sector in bicycle manufacturing history, according to Mr Whiting.
“It’s huge,” he said. “In Europe, it’s almost on par 50-50 [e-bikes to standard bikes] and that has never happened.
“That hasn’t even arrived in Australia yet but it will come.
Advancements in technology, affordability, reliability and design were driving the rise of the bikes in Australia, Mr Whiting said.
He said e-bikes were clunky, heavy and unappealing five years ago.
“They looked like tractors and now they are beautiful, lightweight machines … you would hardly know they were e-bikes,” Mr Whiting said.
The demographic of e-bike users has shifted from mainly seniors trying to stay mobile with minimum exertion, to 30 to 50-year-old inner-city commuters and families, he said.
Liberated from Lycra
Albany graphic designer Jacqui Grieve rides her e-bike several times a day to meet clients and make deliveries.
Ms Grieve said buying an e-bike a year ago had been a positive experience, citing health, environmental and financial benefits.
“I think everybody should have one,” she said.
“It’s really handy, it’s just the best.”
The fashion-savvy 52-year-old Albany Cycle Club member enjoys the freedom of “zooming around” in her work wear instead of Lycra.
“It’s very liberating.”
She has started an Cycle City Chic Albany Instagram account and Facebook page to document her escapades.
A casual city commute
Fellow Albany Cycle Club member Geoff Cass is no stranger to slogging out long distances in the saddle as a competitive cyclist.
Despite having numerous racing bikes, the 69-year-old bought an e-bike in June as a “lifestyle choice”.
Mr Cass said e-bikes were well suited to Albany’s hilly terrain and strong winds.
He said e-bikes were an ideal mode of transport for trips from town to Middleton Beach and Emu Point, which were too far to walk but seemed a waste to drive.
“It’s really great, I just love it,” Mr Cass said.
He was considering selling his second car soon because his e-bike had made it obsolete.
Family of four on three wheels
Quinn and Nina Smithson are two of Albany’s youngest e-bike enthusiasts.
The four and two-year-old siblings enjoy being ferried around by parents Brad and Andrea in a top-of-the-line cargo tricycle the 39-year-olds splashed out on in May.
Mr Smithson said their Mt Melville home was impossible to tackle on a regular bike.
“When you have 30 kilos of bike and 30 kilos of kids, you need the electric assist,” he said.
They used the e-bike to transport their children between kindergarten, swimming lessons and grocery shopping twice a week this winter.
“It’s fantastic,” Mr Smithson said.
“The kids love it, I love it, my wife loves it.
“They’re right in front of us and point things out, it’s very interactive.
“So many people stop us, ask us about it, take photos of it.”
Mr Smithson said a neighbour with a young family was considering buying one and there seemed to be a “snowball effect” in Albany.
“I think it will evolve and get bigger as the technology gets better … [and] cheaper,” he said.