Guest Article: Please, stop hating on e-bikes

Guest Article: Please, stop hating on e-bikes

“I love my e-bike and the scooter mode is my lifeline when I ride.”
— Wendy Hemken

The article below comes from 32-year old Beaverton resident Wendy Hemken. Wendy is currently a student at Portland Community College and plans to study biochemistry/biophysics at Oregon State University.

I was reading through my Facebook today when I see a link about an e-assist skateboard with the title “One less e-bike” and so I quipped back “Hey! What’s wrong with e-bikes?” but I found that my irritation was not so quickly relieved. The fact of the matter is, I’m getting tired of the jibes, snarks, and grumblings about e-bikes from “real” cyclists. The complaint goes like this: Somehow by riding a bike with a motor we’re cheating.

Wendy Hemken stands proudly with her e-bike.

My huband and I both use e-bikes as our primary commuting vehicle. He takes his e-assist Yuba Mundo loaded down with all his school supplies (including pounds of clay for his ceramics class), our three-year old, and all of her school supplies, and then bikes up and down hills to PCC Rock Creek. He gets to school efficiently and quickly without the expense or hassle of car, plus, even with the e-assist it helps him stay in shape because even with the throttle on he still has to pedal. It’s exactly what he was wanting from a vehicle.

My e-bike is a conversation from a regular bike. It can be ridden as a normal bike, e-assist, or just the motor (no pedaling required-aka “scooter-mode”). I love my e-bike and the scooter mode is my lifeline when I ride.

“When I finally got my e-bike, I felt liberated.”

How’d I end up on an e-bike? One year ago I was still walking with a cane due to a back injury from a car accident, and couldn’t get my (non e-assist) bike up even the lowest grades of inclines without leaving me in so much pain all I could do was curl up and cry. Where I live, in Beaverton, everything is uphill and at least a mile away from me. We gave up our car years ago when we moved from Phoenix to North Portland and there was no way ethically or financially that were could go back to owning one. So, while transit allowed me to get to school and back, I never had the flexibility or the capability to just go out and see my friends. I began to feel isolated and shut-in.

Last month, when I finally got my e-bike, I felt liberated. I excitedly picked up my bike from The eBike Store, only to have the process take way longer than expected due to a bank error (and getting lost around Killingsworth trying to get to the MAX). By the time I got back to Beaverton I could barely stand because my back hurt so badly. There are no words to adequately describe to you the relief I felt in just being able to scooter home. I didn’t have to call and beg a friend, or wait for a bus, or, even more unbearably try to bike home. I simply got on my bike, pushed down the throttle and rode home.

I find myself excited about getting out now. I can make plans to go see friends, even if it’s late or they are not on a bus line. The whole world has seemed to open up to me. As I have been riding more I’ve used the e-assist more than my scooter mode but I am more willing to push myself because I know that if I miss and over-do-it, my silver electric chariot will scooter me home.

I hope what I’ve shared encourages you to stop hating on e-bikes and those of us that use them. Your personal rules for biking are great for you, and I’m glad they work for you; but mine, and many others’ are different. We’re not cheating because our playbook is different than yours. After all, we ask drivers to share the road so I’m asking you to share the bike lane.

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