Elected leaders and policymakers get exposed to power of e-bikes in Hood River

Posted by on October 21st, 2021 at 8:52 am

Elected leaders and policymakers on the Historic Highway State Trail in the Columbia River Gorge.
(Photos and story by Megan Ramey, who’s laying down in front)

By Megan Ramey

Some things have to be experienced to be understood.

Electric bikes are one such phenomenon. No matter how eloquently you describe riding an e-bike to a someone, their first ride is still going to astound them. This is why the Electric Bikes For All group and Oregon Environmental Council decided to organize guided rides that put local and state policymakers in the saddle. Once they find out how fun and empowering it is to ride an e-bike, they are going to want to make it easier for everyone else to have the same experience.

The main goal of these policymaker rides is simply to have fun and generate smiles. The secondary goal is to show policymakers how e-bikes can help solve not only transportation problems but a string of top-line societal issues like physical and mental health, community resiliency, climate change, affordable housing, and so on. These rides give advocates a forum to show how close places like Hood River are to becoming a “15 minute city”, where everything is a short e-bike ride away — if there’s a safe way to get there.

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I co-hosted this ride with Oregon E-Bikes co-owner Jodie Gates and Sol Rides tour operator Charlie Crocker. Attendees included: Oregon State Representative Anna Williams and her Chief of Staff Justin Withem, Hood River Mayor Kate McBride, Hood River Planning Commissioners Doug Stepina and Sue Powers, Hood River County Commissioners Leti Moretti and Mike Oates, ODOT Public Transit Administrator Karyn Criswell, ODOT Climate Office Director Suzanne Carlson, Heather Staten of Thrive Hood River, City of Hood River GIS Analyst Jonathan Skloven-Gill, Energy Council Co-Chair Annick Chalier, Sara Wright and Morgan Gratz-Weiser from Oregon Environmental Council, and Amy Black of Oregon E-Bikes.

We pedaled away from downtown Hood River via State Street aboard a fleet of e-bikes. The group was able to easily climb a set of switchbacks leading to the Mark O. Hatfield trailhead and a carfree portion of the Historic Columbia River State Trail. It wasn’t long until the first real smiles appeared.

(Click for gallery on mobile)

Just past the Twin Tunnels at the overlook, we stopped for a group photo. A middle-aged couple who had just rented e-bikes for their first time stopped to admire the same view, and after taking our photo, began to talk to the group. When asked how she was enjoying her first e-bike ride, the woman, named Shannon, began to cry and called the experience “life changing”. She said that being on the e-bike felt like she could really breathe for the first time. This unscripted, emotional testimonial settled on the group as we took in the sun setting across the Columbia River on the syncline, one of the Gorge’s most unique geological features.

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During one of the breaks on our ride I asked the group to use fingers to show their comfort level on various types of roads. On the carfree paved path I saw mostly five fingers, on the shared-lane switchbacks up a hill I saw 3-4 fingers, and on busy State Street coming out of town just 2-3 fingers. I then told them to imagine biking the same route with a young child on their bike or a parent riding next to them.

Wherever they felt uncomfortable, I told them, is where we should build separated bikeways.

Another type of infrastructure I talked about were e-bike charging stations, like they have in The Netherlands. Hood River Mayor Kate McBride said she would ask Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who is doing an EV needs assessment, to include e-bike charging in their scope of work.

So how’d we do? Did the ride have the intended impact on these elected leaders?

Big smile from Hood River County Commissioner Leti Moretti.

After the ride, State Rep Anna Williams shared these thoughts:

“It was my first time on an e-bike and I expected it to be scary. But I felt free and capable as I rode up the steep hills without straining and sweating! Throughout the state, especially in close-knit communities like Hood River built on challenging landscapes, e-bikes offer an important and largely untapped opportunity to reduce transportation-related carbon emissions. We should do everything we can to build e-bike infrastructure in Oregon.”

Perhaps even more telling of how effective the ride was, Hood River mayor Kate McBride bought her first e-bike the day after the ride!

New e-bike day for Hood River Mayor Kate McBride.

The planning and policy decisions these leaders go on to make will reach exponentially more people’s lives than we as advocates can reach on our own. Let’s keep spreading the smiles and power of riding e-bikes!

In related news, the League of American Bicyclists has just issued an action alert to save the E-Bike Tax Credit in the Build Back Better legislation working its way through Capitol Hill.


Guest author Megan Ramey, is the founder of the travel site, Bikabout.com and wears many hats in the Columbia Gorge including Planning Commissioner, Board Member of Columbia Area Transit, Active Transportation Representative for ODOT Region 1 Area Committee on Transportation, and most importantly, Conductor for the bike train and walking bus to school at May Street Elementary.

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SE 34th
Guest
SE 34th

I was an almost daily bike commuter for 13 years before I got on a bikeshare ebike on a trip to Austin a few years ago. It felt like my head exploded with delight on that first ride, and I’ve been a fan ever since. They are truly a game-changer, though I agree with Megan that people need to try one to understand the phenomenon. We need to figure out ways for people to try them out on a mass scale over the next few years.

Matt
Guest
Matt

I’ve tried them. I don’t like them. I’m not in such a hurry that I need to add carbon-intensive, short-lived, conflict mineral-based batteries to an already perfect machine.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

What if all of those variables still end up being less impactful than a car?

Rain Waters
Guest
Rain Waters

cmon one teensy weensy spoonful of insanity never hurts

Steve Hash
Guest
Steve Hash

I’m very pro-eBike, but I still have to wonder about inexperienced cyclists on anything but class 1’s. I am seeing way to many 25 mph “cyclists” with little understanding of MUP, let alone roadway, etiquette. At the speeds Class 2 and 3 can generate, I see a lot of conflict on the horizon. Definitely great to get the policy makers out there though! Nice work.

Megan Ramey
Guest

I hear you. Your head might explode when you see all the tweens riding their parent’s Radpower class 2 bikes around Hood River, with friends on back. I’m trying to get ahead of it with Safe Routes to School education because I don’t want to see them penalized for good choices leading to long-term behavior. But it’s technically illegal, in 3 ways: under 16, on sidewalks and on sidewalks downtown. I hope that someone has brought this up to Rad.

SERider
Guest
SERider

What could Rad really do about it though?

I’m up in Seattle, and after living a few years on the east coast, I am was shocked at how e-bikes have become so popular here when we moved back to the PNW this summer. I would guess 1 out of every 2-3 bikes I see is an e-bike here. I too was pretty worried about inexperienced cyclists on them, but thus far I don’t think there have been huge issues with riders. Maybe there are still so few riders overall that it’s just a drop in the bucket if there is a problem.

We just got a RadWagon4 a few weeks ago and love it. It’s such a tank, but makes school pick up/drop off really nice in our very hilly neighborhood.

Jason
Guest
Jason

On the bright side, the impact is 1:1. Versus the issue with the Texas teen who ran over multiple cyclists in a truck. I’d prefer the teen to be on an e-bike rather than in their parents truck.

Jeff Maurer
Guest
Jeff Maurer

This is awesome! Now have them ride 43 from West Linn to Sellwood. Or the length of the Springwater. We have so far to go.

Ed Fix
Guest
Ed Fix

I purchased a Liberty E-Trike in June. I am approaching 70 and it was a life-changing experience. Can’t wait to get on the road each morning, close to 6,000 minutes. Brought back the joy of riding as a kid, with the added benefit of enjoying the beautiful scenery in our amazing upper valley….Would not have been able to do it without the power of the E-machine!

Megan Ramey
Guest

Highlight of my professional and personal life and I still get chocked up telling the story of Mayor Kate buying an ebike and the perfect stranger we encountered, who was crying tears of “life changing” joy with us. Transformative day for many.

Rain Waters
Guest
Rain Waters

tiniest stip of the iceberg feels the same after stagnation in torpors desert.

is a real ride one or two magnitudes superior ?

actually no comparison to healthy humans

enjoy the ride

Todd/Boulanger
Guest
Todd/Boulanger

Nice effort!
Now I hope the discussion also included adding public recharging for e-bikes with EV charging efforts.

Shuppatsu
Guest
Shuppatsu

Megan said she brought this up in the article. I wonder how this would work myself. Are the connectors, amperages, voltages all pretty standardized?

buildwithjoe
Member

Oregon Taxes bikes. All this pro bike talk is communication tactics to get votes.

Jonathan is too polite to contrast the words of spin against the actions of a majority of democtats. Yes… Oregon lawmakers tax ebikes and give rewards to people who drive alone in electric cars.

I know, nobody here cares. It’s a small tax etc… The democrats have so many fans and excuses. Yes, ebikes with smaller wheels can dodge the tax.

The whole bike tax is well summarized by Rep Earl Blumenauer who says…. the bike tax means cyclists now have more skin in the game.

Earl’s spin implies that cyclists don’t risk enough and need to put more of their life into transportation before their voices matter. This is the spin from someone who voted against gay marriage and then gave an apology. His apology was simply that he to take the air out of their hate so he could get us all back to business.

Long live the status quo of marketing in one direction and actions in another direction.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Or, people learn and change over time and their views adapt accordingly. It’s called growth, Joe. Not everyone is omniscient like yourself.

You need to be patient with those of us who still have learning potential to embrace.

soren
Guest
soren

Letting legislators glimpse the ease and transformational nature of e-mobility alternatives is probably one of the better ways to organize for rescission of the bike tax.

X
Guest
X

By the same logic, the best way to get more tin-cup-or-better bike infrastructure is of course is to have lots of upper middle class folks discover that they love ebikes. And of course that is contradictory to my other comment. If the moderator cuts this one I’ll remain in character.

bendite
Guest
bendite

*mopeds

Mike Beck
Guest
Mike Beck

E-bikes have seen tremendous uptake in cycling-friendly countries in Europe, and literally empower more people to get out on two wheels. In a hilly city like Hood River they are becoming increasingly common, People on e-bikes fly up the hill the city is built on insteead of labored pedaling, or not riding at all. There’s really no argument that working to get more people on bikes in communities shouldn’t include e-bikes, in fact it might be a bigger tool than simple infrastructure improvements alone. Not to say those are mutually exclusive! They, in a way, are mutually supporting – the more people on bikes happens with better infrastructure, and ebikes on better infrastructure gets more people on bikes and a need for more infrastructure. E-bikes also expand the 15-minute bike shed, as mentioned in the article. This type of advocacy is great, too – getting legislators and policy makers out on rides can help them see the rider’s point of view. Kudos to Megan Ramsey for leading this rideout.

X
Guest
X

I’m still willing to ride a bike, even a loaded analog bike, up a hill. At my age it takes longer but it’s still possible. However I am less willing to do this thing in the presence of fast motor vehicle traffic. There are places where I choose to ride up hills on less-travelled sidewalks knowing full well that behavior is anathema to vehicular cyclists and at least some pedestrian activists.

As a person gets older they have less of life to lose but every minute is a bigger fraction of that remainder. There’s a cliche that I will paraphrase as ‘imminent death gives you clarity’. I don’t feel like I’m about to die but I’m less willing to go out because somebody had to go punch the clock or because they like to hear their motor run.

Ok yeah this was an article about ebikes. They have their place I guess. However in a crash with a 5000 lb 250 HP motor vehicle an ebike is very much a bike. A sufficient network of charging stations will not protect me from other people’s mistakes or their outright aggression.

My infrastructure need is to be able to get places on a bike without disastrous traffic conflicts.

Drew Devereux
Guest

Thanks Megan, Jodie, and Charlie for doing the work that can bring change. Ebikes are fun, and great at getting people outside, out of their cars, and into active transportation. With half of the car trips being only a couple miles or so, I can see many more folks choosing a bicycle or ebike if our infrastructure was not so risky for those walking and pedaling.