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Bicycling’s Bright Spot

August 24th, 2022 by dk

If this isn’t the golden age of bicycling in Eugene, we’re doing something very wrong.

Gasoline rose this summer to prices we’ve never seen. Experts expect those prices to stay high for at least the next few years because so much drilling was idled during the COVID slowdowns.

Lingering pandemic concerns have left many of us looking for exercise alternatives that don’t take us too far from home, but farther than the walk around the block we could probably now do blindfolded. COVID inactivity is sending us a message: “Either get more exercise or buy a new wardrobe. You can’t wear sweatpants everyday.”

Getting outdoor exercise is easier than ever, which is good news for us and bad news for the planet. Historic droughts caused by global warming are leaving us with fewer rainy days, when bicycling requires at least a bit of extra gear.

You’ve probably noticed that Eugene has been building infrastructure for bicyclists at a fevered pace. Protected bike lanes are the city’s newest additions, running along Amazon Parkway from the south, and 13th Avenue from the west. More are being planned. As the city densifies, more of people’s basic needs can be met very nearby.

Add to all this one more factor that could be a game-changer for many households: electrification. Bicycles with pedal-assist electric motors have begun to outsell traditional bicycles in many areas. Eugene now has several bike shops that specialize in selling and servicing eBikes.

Our local power company is currently enticing its customers to consider this alternative. EWEB will pay you $300 to buy a new eBike.

Natural gas companies and nuclear power plants have been pitching their services lately as “bridge technologies” that can get us to a sustainable power grid with less disruption and delay. Adding electric bicycles to your household’s transportation options is like a personal bridge technology — a way to meet your immediate needs until electric vehicles become more affordable and available.

It’s becoming clear that our best future will be more electrified. That future has already arrived on bike paths all around the area. 

Whenever there’s a sudden influx of new users, frustrations grow around a lack of decorum or respect. It’s a real concern, but it’s likely to be temporary. New users will learn the rules. Old users will adapt to a wider range of variables.

Don’t wait for government regulations to catch up. As long as a bicycle has operable pedals and no putt putt from a gas engine, a bicyclist can always insist that they weren’t using their motor where a motor is not allowed.

Every bicyclist is removing an automobile from the street or a video controller from the seat. Whether they are biking for errands or fun, they are helping to build, however clumsily, a healthier future for everyone.

Photographers talk about the Golden Hour. It begins slightly before sunset, when the light outside is roughly the same brightness as a building’s interior. With each passing minute, the glow from inside looks more inviting as the skies darken overhead. This is bicycling’s Golden Hour.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at Details about EWEB’s eBike rebate are here:

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