By: Scott Kramer
By the time February arrived this year, I was beyond confident that I could survive my Southern California town without a car. So I sold it -- and banked some extra money due to the COVID surge in used car prices. My replacement: a Juiced CrossCurrent X e-bike. I’d already owned it for 15 months at that point and had garaged my car for most of that time. So I was confident I could get around town on my bike full time. And trust me, if I can do it then most of America can for World Car Free Day on September 22 -- when motorists are encouraged to leave their cars at home for one day.
In the time I’ve owned my e-bike, I’ve two-wheeled some 1,300+ miles around town on it. At our $4/gallon gas prices, I figured I’ve saved roughly $230 at the pump -- plus the costs of maintenance, insurance and license renewal associated with the car. Cutting out auto insurance alone left an extra $1,100 in my pocket this year. And the bike battery charges up fairly quickly -- I’ve not even noticed a bump in my electric bill. But costs aside, here are the lessons I’ve learned in my seven months of riding an e-bike full-time:
It’s so convenient. Honestly, I use my e-bike to go anywhere that is within five miles, and sometimes beyond. And I get there nearly as quickly -- if not faster -- than with a car. On the street, I stop at lights but always pull forward to the front spot in a line of cars -- as if I was a VIP. When I arrive at my destination, the bike parking is typically right at the front door. So I don’t need to search for parking spots. True story: I scheduled a doctor appointment 10 miles away on a Friday afternoon. Normally a car trip there would be a 10-to-15 minute ride, but Waze told me up front that it would be 45 minutes with traffic. So I hopped on my e-bike and was there in 21 minutes. As I pulled up to the building, I glanced at the freeway, traffic was completely stopped for miles. Had I taken a car, I probably would’ve totally missed the appointment.
Better physical health. Without a doubt, I’m in better physical condition since February -- and have lost a few pounds, to boot. I often set the pedal assist to the lowest-possible setting for any given road condition, forcing myself to pedal harder. It also helps add range to the battery charge.
Better mental health. I have way more peace of mind now. After stressing for years about if I parked in a too-tight spot or in a tow-away zone -- or if that engine noise I heard was something to worry about -- that’s all gone. And speaking of parking, most places have bike racks or something to tether the bike to these days. I’ve actually called ahead to restaurants and golf courses to ask them if they have bike racks. So far, every place has said yes. I truly feel more carefree and less anxious.
Way easier to maintain. I mentioned car maintenance earlier. There’s also some e-bike maintenance that can’t be ignored. But you won’t pay an arm and a leg for it. In fact, you can easily perform most of it yourself. Before every ride, I make sure my tires are fully inflated for a smoother, safer ride and better mileage. I also check for tight cable connections, and occasionally the chain. That’s it. Once every year or so, you can get a $35 professional bike tune-up, as well.
Safety in numbers. I’m not sure how it is in your area, but the e-bike community has exploded in coastal Southern California. Locals suspect it’s because the beaches charge for parking, and electric bikes make it simple to get to the ocean and back -- even when toting a surfboard. I just think it’s a healthy, fun experience that more people are catching onto. That said, because there are so many more bikes on the road, I feel safer about it as car drivers are now keeping their eyes open even more for bikes. Trust me, more and more communities and cities will be quickly catching on to the benefits of e-bikes if they haven’t already.
Respect the street. Paying attention is key when sharing your bike with cars. Most drivers are extra-good about extending the right of way to bikes. But honestly, sometimes they look right through you -- not deliberately. Drivers are generally looking for other cars and sometimes just don’t see bikes -- even when right in front of them. It’s just human nature. Thus, I always wear bright colors, a helmet and hard-toe shoes, and turn on the bike headlight when riding. Plus, I bought a side-view mirror, which is imperative when sharing the street with cars. And I’m way more alert on the road now. In fact, I think it’s made me a better car driver, when I occasionally take my wife’s car.
Be prepared. Just like before you drive a car, you need to think ahead when riding a bike. Juice up the battery for longer rides up front. Map out your trip on Google or Apple Maps, selecting the bike option. Let it show you the quickest and safest route. If you know you’re heading to the grocery store, bring a backpack to put your groceries in. If it’s supposed to cool down later, pack a jacket. It just takes a little common sense. Most of all, leave yourself enough time to get to your destination without rushing -- that will likely prevent you from taking needless chances on the road. You’ll just ride safer that way.
Trust me, if I can go full-time on my Juiced e-bike for seven months, you can definitely sacrifice your car for one day. You may be surprised how little you actually need it.
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