High gas prices, licensing changes boost e-bikes
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Jul 05, 2007  |  Vote 0    0

High gas prices, licensing changes boost e-bikes

Stratford Gazette

Rising gas prices have commuters thinking outside the box, driving people from their cars to other forms of transportation.

And one of those environmentally friendly options is the e-bike - electric motor-assisted bikes that are taking the streets by storm.

Marg Allen, owner of Radical Rides at Burtol Dry Cleaners on Ontario Street, says she's seem a boom in sales of the bikes after the provincial government introduced a pilot program last year which allows the bikes to be ridden without a licence or insurance.

"Since the law changed, there's been more interest," said Allen, in an interview earlier this week.

"And every time the price of gas goes up, we do a lot more business."

Under new regulations, power-assisted bicycles must have a motor that does not exceed 500 watts and does not exceed 32 kilometres an hour. They can travel anywhere a normal bicycle travels. No driver's licence, written test, registration or licence plate is required. However, riders - no matter their age - must wear an approved bicycle helmet.

Allen has been selling the e-bikes for about two years. She has always had a strong interest in electric cars and bikes and since she began selling them, rides her e-bike regularly.

"I've put in a lot of miles on them," she said, adding she often rides around town when running errands. "When I go away with my motorhome, I always bring a bike."

She is also familiar with a musician who helped change the laws governing the e-bikes, which used to require special licensing and insurance. Fred Eaglesmith, of Port Dover, met with Premier Dalton McGuinty last summer to push him into action.

"He was able to speed some of the stuff up," she said of Eaglesmith, who has lived off the grid on a farm for several years.

She said her customers have mostly been over the age of 30 and notes she finds it easier to carry things on her e-bike. Instead of having a chain drive, they are hub powered which means less maintenance. Some e-bikes look like a traditional bicycle and others are styled after Asian scooters.

"They're twist and go and make no noise."

While e-bikes are readily available, she suggests customers do their homework and purchase their bikes from a reputable dealer who can offer parts, service and most of all, liability insurance.

Along with her assortment of motocross racers, e-bikes and ATVs, Allen said she would eventually like to expand the business to offer other environmentally friendly products such as solar panels and windmills.

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