As a cyclist, we’re all too aware of the dangers from motorists not seeing us, and that includes opening doors into bike lanes. You know you’re always looking at every car you pass to see if there’s a head sticking above the driver’s-side headrest.
As a cyclist but also a driver, you try to remember to check your mirror before you get out, but sometimes, you miss someone who is already in your blind spot. I’ve never hit a fellow cyclist, but I’ve had a couple of close calls.
I recently read about the “Dutch reach.” The Dutch, who have 13 million bikes on the roads now, invented this 50 years ago. It’s a really simple method of opening your door with your opposite hand. It makes you look over your shoulder as you open the door so you can see any cyclist that might otherwise have made it into your blind spot. Being able to perform the Dutch reach is also a required section of the driving test in Holland.
I think it’s a good idea for everyone. I’m retraining myself to open the door with my other hand, and it definitely does help.
ALL THE NEW BIKES
There are a huge number of new bikes on the horizon, and many will be available by the time you read this. Everything from mountain bikes, like Giant’s Reign E+ to Intense’s Tazer, to the massive number of new e-bikes that venerable bike maker Bianchi has jumped into the market with.
There’s a fair amount of crossover in this issue, as I’ve been multitasking on several trips. I was invited to Ravi Kempaiah’s world-record attempt in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and while I was there, I interviewed Professor Jeff Dahn, probably the world’s foremost expert on lithium-ion battery technology, for my podcast episode where we discuss the future of battery technology and what he is currently working on to that end. You can listen to that episode and all the other episodes of the Electric Bike Action podcast wherever you find podcasts (e.g. iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, etc.)
Also, while I was at a bike launch in Europe, my girlfriend came with me to Geneva, where we spent a day after I returned from the launch renting e-bikes and riding around the city. Even though it was the summer, and it was pretty hot, we were able to see quite a lot of the city. The cost to rent two bikes for a day there—decent bikes, too—was 30 francs for the pair. E-bikes are everywhere there and simply locked to fences. There were Stromers, Giants and Kalkhoffs, and tons of other brands, they’ve definitely embraced cycling and specifically e-bikes for transportation there.
“PeopleForBikes has now convinced more than half the states in the country to adopt the three-class system for e-bikes.”
Seeing how cycling, especially electric bikes, is so different in Europe really does give me a sense of what the future possibilities electric bikes can be. More cities are building infrastructure, and PeopleForBikes has now convinced more than half the states in the country to adopt the three-class system for e-bikes, and their good work is paving the way for more growth in e-bikes and more people getting out on two wheels, which is good for all of us!
EFFICIENT AND FASTER
I recently met a bicycle-mounted medic in London. His bike was laden with equipment and supplies, all the accouterment of a medical professional. Being a first responder, I asked him if he’d considered an e-bike to get him where he needed to go. He replied that it was all a budgetary consideration. I sort of understand, but in those cases, wouldn’t it be worth the extra budget when a bicycle can get to a scene oftentimes faster than a full-sized emergency vehicle when there is traffic?
I have recently seen those efficiencies firsthand. I’m working on a follow-up on the Los Angeles Police Department’s e-bike pilot program. I was allowed to ride along with the Hollywood division officers on e-bikes. They were able to stop cars for infractions, even some trying to get away. They also have great interactions with both tourists and the kooky locals, many of which they know by name.
More and more police departments have been trying out electric bicycles and motorcycles and realizing their value. It would completely make sense, even here in the U.S., for big cities to have mobile medics and other first responders using e-bikes.
Right after I wrote my last column, I was sad to learn that Lee Iacocca had passed away. In his day Iacocca led a pretty incredible life. He had been the head of two of the big-three carmakers in the U.S., and followed that up with a vision of what he believed would be the next big thing in future transportation—the e-bike. Thanks for the vision, Lee.
TALK TO ME
I’d love to hear some great reader stories about how e-bikes have changed your life. E-mail me stories and pictures at [email protected] if you have them, or send them in snail mail or via passenger pigeon.