Tag Archives: bicycle

Electric bikes for sustainable transport

When I saw a neighbor’s electric bicycle today, I was impressed. Here was a good example of the new possibilities for sustainable transport.

The electric bike, which he bought from a bicycle shop in Caloocan, cost P17,000. It is made by LBH Co. of China. The e-bike comes with a maintenance-free 36-volt lead-acid battery. The battery powers an electric motor built into the rear axle. However, the rider can still use the foot pedal if he wants to, which takes the load off the battery. If he pedals fast enough, or when going downhill, the battery is automatically recharged. The battery is also easily detached for recharging from any 220-volt outlet. He spent a few hundred pesos more to replace the single-speed plate with a three-speed one, for higher speed pedalling.

My neighbor says he finds the battery power most useful on uphill climbs, or when he is too tired to pedal. Normally, to keep fit, he pedals to work and back.

The battery can last for five hours of riding, up to eight hours if he uses the foot pedal intermittently. He has used it to travel from Manila to Bulacan and back.

Because it is considered a bicycle, it needs no registration, license or other bureaucratic requirements. As a bicycle rider, he can go on sidewalks, counter-flow, and do other things normally allowed bicycles. The bike does look like a bicycle more than a motorcycle. The only giveaway is the elongated battery under the seat and the wider-than-usual rear axle, which contains the electric motor.

Here is the ideal personal transport for city-riding. Replace the lead-acid battery with a fuel cell of the future, and the design will even be more environmentally friendly. This is true 21st century transport. If the e-bike is used widely here — and the government should strongly encourage its use by allowing, for instance, tax-free importation — we can significantly reduce the pollution coming from the increasing number of motor bikes in metropolitan areas.

A most strongly recommended replacement for motorbikes. Cheaper, good for one’s health, and good for the environment.

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Learning to ride a bicycle

According to the book Human Scale by Kirkpatrick Sale, the most efficient form of transportation on earth is the bicycle. In terms of converting energy to motion, the book says, the bicycle is more efficient than a horse, fish, bird, mouse, car, helicopter, plane, jet, or any other animal or machine.

Given the increasing cost of gasoline, diesel, LPG, and other fossil fuels, we have all the more reason to shift to bicycles for ordinary, day-to-day transport. We should all ask our local officials to set aside road lanes specifically for bicycles, to encourage everyone to use this super-efficient transport mode for daily commuting or just for leisure.

Bicycles do not only save the rider money and the country dollars. They also reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, bicycle assembly, manufacture and repair can become a backyard industry. Best of all, a bicycle keeps the rider fit and healthy.

If you (or your children) don’t know yet how to ride a bike, here’s a painless way to learn, minus the usual bruises:

  • Get a bicycle of the right training height for you: that is, when you sit on the saddle, your heels should barely touch the ground.

  • Unscrew the two pedals and take them out, so that your feet can easily move back and forth without obstruction.

  • Find a level or very slightly inclined road with no motorized traffic that can disturb your riding practice.

  • Practice pushing yourself off with your feet, lifting your feet off the ground for as long as you can, and then extending your feet to stop your fall.

  • Try to stay in balance on the bike for as long as possible. One way to stay in balance is to steer the bike in the direction of your fall. You must learn to do this without conscious thought.

  • Keep practising, until you are confident you can keep your balance as long as possible on a slow-moving bike. Get someone to push you off, for greater momentum.

  • When you can keep your balance without conscious thought, practice how to make turns. Turning essentially involves leaning towards the direction of your turn. Again, practice until you can turn without conscious thought.

  • When you can make turns with confidence, install back the two pedals and learn to use them. You may now start enjoying your new-found riding skill!