Electric bikes are an alternative to pay the high price of gasoline

Pamela Hill smiles and rings her bicycle bell as she shows off her pedal-assist e-bike. She rides it from her home in Encanto to run errands at Sprouts and Target, and sometimes just for exercise.

It’s a Class 1 pedal-assist bike, which means she has to pedal, but there’s a motor in the rear hub that gives her some useful thrust. She has had the bike for two years.

“My world of places where I would have fun opened up dramatically, just because of the number of hills in San Diego. Now I don’t worry about hills anymore,” Hill said.

Electric bikes are an alternative to pay the high price of gasoline

Today’s historically high gasoline prices create hardship – but also an opportunity to switch from driving to using cleaner forms of transportation such as e-bikes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving people’s health is the goal of San Diego nonprofit Pedal Ahead, which provided Hill with his bike.

Pedal Ahead lends e-bikes to people with eligible incomes. People selected by the group can use the bike and possibly own it if they cover enough miles. One of the sponsors, the Left Coast Fund, donated 400 e-bikes to the cause. So far, 263 bikes have been distributed and the group hopes the remaining bikes will be on loan by April.

Other groups that fund or support Pedal Ahead include SDG&E, San Diego County, and Uptown Bicycles in Normal Heights, the store where people in the program get their bikes serviced.

“What I like to say is that riding a regular bike, a non-electric bike, is like running, and riding an e-bike is like walking – you’re still getting good exercise,” said Curtis Allen, owner of Uptown Bicycles.

Allen said there are different classes of e-bikes. Some have a throttle that runs the bike entirely with the motor. With pedal assist, you still get a workout, even if you might not be sweating.

Related: In wake of cyclist deaths, San Diego is ramping up cycling infrastructure

San Diego’s challenging topography is something that keeps some people from considering biking as a good way to get around. Electric bikes are a solution to this.

“Another thing I like to say about e-bikes. It’s like riding a beach cruiser anywhere in town. So you can cruise along the beach and it’s very little effort. With an e-bike , you can do it anywhere in San Diego,” Allen said.

Ed Clancy is the founder of Pedal Ahead. He said the 263 riders entered into the program so far had reduced carbon emissions significantly when considering the miles they would have put on the cars.

Carbon emissions that are reduced by e-bikers and, you know, 18.3 metric tons,” Clancy said. “Our pilots have flown or flown over 200,000 miles in 18 months.”

Allen said the bike culture is changing as more people start riding and more people accept electronic assistance, which can be crucial for older people or people who aren’t. not fit enough to climb a steep San Diego hill.

Electric bikes are not cheap. They range from $1,500 to $5,000. That’s why Hill said she was grateful to Pedal Ahead for making her use one. How far does she go?

“Out and back, I’m comfortable between 30 and 35 miles,” Hill said.

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