LIVING GREEN: Power to the pedal

If your daily commute involves battling peak-hour traffic or scouring inner-city streets for a car park, the thought of cycling may have crossed your mind.Like many people though, you may have been deterred from getting ‘‘on your bike’’ for several reasons, such as fear of riding on busy roads, not being able to take off quickly enough at intersections, or the thought of arriving at work sweaty and in need of a shower. For others, getting into cycling can be a bit of a catch-22: not feeling fit enough to do something that will improve fitness. And even for those with reasonable levels of fitness, there’s still the dread of hills and strong headwinds. A pedal-assisted electric bicycle, or pedelec, may be your solution.

A pedelec assists a rider’s pedalling via a small electric motor that cuts in whenever they are pedalling. Quality pedelecs vary the assistance level from the motor depending on the terrain, such as providing more power when riding up hills.

In modern electric bikes,  energy comes from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The distance you can cover from each charge depends on battery capacity, how much pedal-assist you use and how many hills you cover; you can expect to get anywhere from 25 to 70 kilometres depending on these factors. Most riders will allow their batteries to reach full charge overnight; however, they can be fast-charged to 80 to 85per cent capacity in one to four hours when necessary. An average battery requires less than half a kilowatt-hour of electricity to fully charge. You can buy kits to convert your conventional bicycle into an electric bike or get yourself a fully-manufactured model.

Prices start from about $1000 for a retrofit and typically range up to about $3000 for a ready-made bike; although serious bikers can expect to spend more, especially for a high quality European import. Nigel George, of Newcastle’s E.V Nova (, said he began building electric bikes locally because of the generally poor quality of cheap imports.

‘‘Most electric bike companies in Australia import bikes from China in container loads and have very little technical expertise in servicing electric bikes, as well as limited range of configuration,’’ he said. ‘‘All E.V Nova bikes are built to the same exacting standards as the European imports, but for significantly lower cost.’’

Electric bikes can benefit not just the urban commuter or those wishing to lessen their impact on the environment. They can provide freedom and independence to those with limited mobility, injuries or other medical conditions restricting them from riding a conventional bicycle (these buyers should consider a model that has throttle assist). They can also be ridden without  a driver’s licence, motor vehicle registration and insurance; under Australian law, electric bikes are classified as ordinary bicycles providing the motor does not exceed 250watts. While an electric bike won’t address concerns you may have regarding road safety, a cycling class may boost your confidence.

Hunter Cycle Skills, an accredited Austcycle training provider, runs a free course that covers basic bike handling skills to ride on cycle paths and quiet streets, as well as a more advanced course that focuses on riding safely in the city.

Source: The Herald

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This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat

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