Fully Charged

By Tony Donaldson [email protected]

I have had the opportunity to consult with the Los Angeles Police Department on their e-bike program. It was an incredibly fun yet humbling experience to work with the officers and (recently retired) Police Chief Charlie Beck in getting their e-bike program started.

I went out on part of their one-week bike training and see how they used the bikes in tactical situations, saw their selection process and their ultimate first choice, the purpose-built Bulls Sentinel. It was designed to their exact specs, and something tells me that this will be the example for police departments nationwide, if not worldwide.

This first step towards utilization of electric bikes will change the way metropolitan police departments use patrols and cut response times dramatically. Smaller departments, like the city of Newport Beach, started using e-bikes with great results during the summertime when traffic is so gridlocked that even a motorcycle can’t get around to help citizens or officers when needed. Electric bicycles are paramount in getting through.

Summer is in full swing here in Southern California, and I’m grateful for the place I live in, Santa Monica. It’s a 33-mile trek over two mountain passes to get to the office, so I telecommute most days and do most of my test rides near home, where it usually tops out in the 80s, not the triple digits as is so often the case at the office.

However, I pay for the privilege—not just in the cost of my rent but travel time too. In Los Angeles, it can take 45 minutes to travel the 33 miles into the office by car, or it can take over two hours if I time it wrong. On the other hand, I’m more centrally located for many manufacturers who would rather bring bikes to me directly.

“It does make me look differently at commuting bikes, a sort of litmus test as to whether a long-distance commuter could actually use a given bike.”

Riding an e-bike into work is tough for several reasons. One is that, even though Los Angeles is becoming a much more bicycle-friendly place, there are a few really scary areas on my inbound route where even a bicycle lane can be dangerous, and sometimes there isn’t even one. Second, with the elevation gains between here and there, most bikes’ batteries won’t have the range to get the job done. Third, the gear I usually carry won’t fit on anything but a cargo bike, as I usually carry my camera gear (large backpack) and computer bag with my laptop, and whatever accoutrement that needs to go with whatever task is at hand for the day.

During the summertime, the heat also makes it more than a little uncomfortable to commute two hours each way through the two valleys. I don’t relish showing up to work drenched in sweat, even after using maximum battery power on climbs.

It does make me look differently at commuting bikes, a sort of litmus test as to whether a long-distance commuter could actually use a given bike. My case is different from many, however.

I love to talk to other e-bike riders when I’m out on a ride. Recently, I met a rider who lives in the South Bay. His commute to Santa Monica for work takes him along the beach for the whole ride. It’s just over an hour, about 15–25 minutes shorter than his drive. He just got his e-bike, his first one ever, and he’s over the moon about it. He talks about how much less stress it creates, instead of being in the stop-and-go traffic on the notoriously clogged 405 freeway. On his ride, too, he gets the view of the setting sun along the beach path, with fresh air and good temperatures.

If you have a story as to why you love e-bikes, drop me a line! I want to hear from you. Until then, get out
and ride!