Green commuting options
|Sam Valdes of Silver Cycles commutes by bike throughout the winter|
In 2011, resolve to get fit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Linda Mack may not be the average cyclist. It's not everyone who turns a passion of 37 years into a small business. But the owner of Silver Cycles in Silver Spring is a true believer when it comes to using two wheels instead of one as a form of sustainable transportation. "I started commuting by bike in 1973 during the gas crisis," said Mack. "I've been at it ever since."
Mack and her staff encourage customers to persevere with cycling as much as possible in the winter. Employees at Silver Cycles are known for pulling out maps and helping customers find the safest routes for bike commuters. They also provide advice on proper gear and clothing for cooler winter temperatures.
|Josh Sachs of Silver Cycles maps out the safest commuting route for a customer|
"If you ski or hike, a lot of the base layers of clothing you wear for those sports are the same things you would wear for short winter bike commutes," says Mack. "You don't have to spend a lot of money to stay warm and comfortable."
But Mack says comfort and safety are two separate issues when it comes to winter riding. She advises using lights specially configured for bicycles in order to be seen in intersections early in the evening, as well as bright jackets and clothing that are highly visible to motorists.
"Getting more bike lanes designed and built in the county will stimulate more use of bikes over cars," says Mack. "If people feel safe riding their bikes, they'll use them for commuting. It's that simple." Jo Reyes, one of the owners of The Green Commuter in Takoma Park, includes e-bikes -- or electric bikes -- as part of his inventory along with traditional bicycles. Reyes and Mack share the same passion and commitment to green commuting as a way of life. However, Reyes has a slightly different approach to building awareness of eco-friendly commuting.
"I use my bike to get everywhere I possibly can," says Reyes. "But you have to realize that hardcore cycling isn't for everybody. There are older customers or those with physical limitations. I believe in clean and sustainable transportation so much that I think everyone should be able to participate."
|The Green Commuter owner Jo Reyes shows a few features on the Ultra Motor A2B electric bike: a hub motor and twist throttle on the handlebars.|
E-bikes, popular in Europe but just catching on in the U.S., travel at a Department of Transportation- mandated maximum of 20 mph and cost an average of 11 cents a mile to operate. Most of the bikes in Reyes' inventory will travel a range of 20 to 45 miles on a single charge. The bikes are either pedal-assisted or "power-on-demand." Power-on-demand means that the bike assists you when you need it.
"Electric bicycles can open the door for people who might not be green commuters otherwise," said Reyes. "There are plenty of customers who want to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but are reluctant because they may not be able to move fast enough or carry enough gear on a traditional bicycle. We're all about giving people options."
Reyes has set up e-bikes for older customers and says it gives them a renewed sense of freedom and control over how they get around. He is also retrofitting two traditional bicycles to convert them to e-bikes for the Montgomery County Police Department under a grant the department received.
For customers who want to test their ability, a power-on-demand bike can be turned off completely, allowing the rider to "hypermile" the same way that Toyota Prius drivers can hypermile in their hybrid.
"The technology is here for these types of bikes," says Reyes. "It's all a matter of making sure that people who aren't regular cyclists know what's available."
|Silver Cycles owner Linda Mack (right) shows reflective safety material on employee Sam Valdes' winter cycling gear. Lights and reflective strips on clothes and helmets are essential for safer commuting.|
|This folding e-bike, manufactured by California-based Pedego is a clever idea for travelers or apartment dwellers, according to Jo Reyes of The Green Commuter. The bike can be packed and checked with an airline and used for commuting once a traveler reaches his/her destination.|