A third of the Quebec population lives less than 5 km from their workplace, and yet over 75% of us drive to work on a daily basis. This reliance on the automobile weighs heavily on the climate.
Fortunately, there’s a better way! The bicycle, of course, but also the electrically-assisted bicycle (EAB). Fast and easy to operate, the EAB could well become an efficient and green alternative to the car for commuting, especially for longer or steeper commutes, or if you have little or no access to public transit. In fact, more and more companies are putting the infrastructure in place to facilitate electric biking!
(E-) biking: a healthy and practical alternative
Just like the traditional bicycle, the EAB is associated with many benefits – notably when it comes to your health. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the EAB helps you stay in shape through mild exercise, since the electric motor only kicks in once you reach a certain pedalling intensity. And its benefits aren’t just physical: pedalling to work stimulates the secretion of endorphins, hormones that bring on a sense of well-being and help reduce stress and anxiety. Combined with the salutary effects of the sun and being outdoors, human-powered transportation (even electrically-assisted) is energizing and helps you be in a good mood.
EAB enthusiasts also see it as a fast and reliable method of transportation that lets them zip past traffic jams: when you bike to work, you always know when you’ll arrive! Cyclists can say goodbye not only to traffic but also to the needless stress and anxiety of finding a parking spot.
Here are three things to consider to help your transition from car to e-bike for your work commute:
1. Analyze your needs and your budget
The EAB is not cheap: depending on the model, it will set you back, on average, anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000. So it’s important to identify your needs when choosing the model that’s right for you. How many kilometers do you travel per day? Do you have passengers or are you carrying something (children, equipment, etc.) requiring a trailer? These are all important factors to consider before you buy.
For smaller budgets, buying a used EAB can be an interesting option. You can already find some on classified ads platforms like LesPac. To make things easier for people interested in switching over to an electric bike, some municipalities (including the city of Laval) are subsidizing the purchase cost.
But putting yourself behind the wheel of an EAB doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy one. In spring and summer, several large cities in Quebec offer electric bike sharing services, like Quebec City’s àVélo, Saguenay’s Accès Vélo and Montreal’s Bixi.
And remember, an EAB still costs peanuts in comparison to an automobile. So if the length of your work commute allows it, why not consider getting rid of your car (or second car)?
2. Get the right equipment
There are a few things you’ll need to safely operate an EAB. First, you are required by law to wear a helmet. The Highway Safety Code also requires you to equip your bicycle with lights and reflectors to be visible at all times. You can also wear a safety vest with reflective stripes for even greater visibility and safety.
For comfortable distances, you can equip your bicycle with a basket or saddlebags to carry any work items, personal effects or even your lunch. In case of rainy weather, proper attire is advised: waterproof over-trousers and a raincoat. Here again, these items can be found on second-hand platforms.
You won’t need special equipment to recharge your bike, apart from the case supplied by the retailer. Simply plug the battery into a conventional outlet, either at home or in the office.
To learn more about mandatory and recommended equipment, as well as some do’s and don’ts, visit the Vélo Québec website.
3. Guarding against theft
Theft is an ongoing concern for EAB owners, especially in urban centres. To guard against theft, make sure you get a quality lock and attach it carefully to your bike, ideally in a monitored location or somewhere with a lot of foot traffic.
Police departments in a number of Quebec municipalities also recommend registering your bicycle on the Garage 529 platform, which has been effective in reducing bike thefts.
In any case, when you park your bike outside or in a non-monitored location, think of taking the battery with you.
For more advice on how to avoid bike theft, check out these tips on the Vélo Québec site.
And what about winter?
More and more cyclists are pedalling year-round in Quebec, even in the heart of winter! Can you do this with an EAB? The answer is yes, but you need to take some precautions. To keep the battery in good health, make sure to remove it after each trip and store it at home or at work, to protect it against moisture or extreme temperatures. If you plan on cycling all winter long, you should definitely equip your bike with special tires. Your retailer can guide you in choosing the right tires for you, according to your needs. Lastly, don’t overlook regular maintenance on your bike.
A number of cities keep some of their bicycle lanes clean and safe during the winter. So if you want to give winter biking a try, you can do so safely.
A battery’s operating life goes down as temperatures go down. So keep this in mind when planning your route.
How can my employer help me switch to active (human-powered) transportation?
Companies have a real role to play in promoting sustainable modes of transportation for work commutes. They can put in place cycling infrastructure for their employees (showers, lockers, secured parking), offer a fleet of (e-) bikes that can be shared or pay for subscriptions to a bicycle sharing service, among other things. Employers have everything to gain by going bike-friendly. It helps reduce absenteeism, improve concentration/productivity and, of course, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Équiterre’s Vélovolt campaign encourages organizations to offer their staff complementary EAB “test drives”. That way, their workers can test out an electric bike for their daily commutes (including to work) over a period of weeks and judge the benefits for themselves.
Resource for tips and feedback from EAB owners: