WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Electric Bicycles Ride Into D.C.

Play associated audio
Some D.C. commuters have started using electric bikes to break up the monotony.
Martin Di Caro
Some D.C. commuters have started using electric bikes to break up the monotony.

Joe Reyes, the owner of The Green Commuter in Takoma Park, Md., has traveled from one extreme to another. He once worked as a mechanic for a Ferrari racing team working on engines that would achieve fuel efficiency of about 5 miles per gallon. Now he sells a mode of transportation that is as eco-friendly as it gets: bicycles. But Reyes also sells bicycles for non-bicyclists.

"We call it an electric-assist bicycle," says Reyes. "You get 25 percent of your assist from the electric motor, 75 percent of it comes from you. It's kind of an electric human-hybrid, if you will."

An electric bike looks like a regular, sturdy road bike, except for the lithium-ion battery pack on the rear frame. It's rare to see electric bikes on the roads around D.C., but Reyes thinks they may not be so rare much longer.

"If your commute is say 8 or 10 miles one way, you get to your office, you just plug it in there and you have plenty of juice to get back home," he says.

As of now Reyes is lucky to sell one electric bike per week, which can cost around $3,000 for a new model. A good one can cost about $1,500 or less.

"When we first opened in 2010, we sold between April and December about 12 units of electric bikes," says Reyes. "In 2011 we sold approximately 34 units of electric bikes."

Charlie Garlow, who co-owns the bike shop with Reyes, imagines what downtown D.C. near his office at the EPA, would sound like if the growl of internal combustion engines were replaced by the quiet hum of electric batteries.

"It would look just like Amsterdam or Denmark," says Garlow, who is an EPA attorney who works on compliance with the Clean Air Act. "It's wonderful. It was just beautiful when I was over there seeing all those bicycles. It just gives you a different feel for life altogether. I'd love to see Washington, D.C. do more of that."

[Music: "A to B" by The Futureheads from The Futureheads]

Photos: It's Electric!

NPR

Barbershop: UofL Basketball Ban, Football Concussions And The NFL Women's Summit

ESPN contributor Kevin Blackistone, Bloomberg View's Kavitha Davidson and The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery talk about the UofL basketball team, public opinion of the NFL, and women in sports.
NPR

After Introducing Changes, Keurig Sales Continue To Fall

Despite America's high coffee consumption, Keurig reported disappointing sales this week. Even during its popular holiday selling period, the numbers haven't perked up in recent years.
NPR

On The Clock: Rubio Gets The Most Talking Time In Tonight's Debate

It was the last debate before the New Hampshire primary and Donald Trump was back onstage. Which GOP candidate ended up with the most talking time?
NPR

How Limited Internet Access Can Subtract From Kids' Education

Smartphones are often credited with helping bridge the "digital divide" between people who do and don't have Internet access at home. But is mobile Internet enough for a family with a kid in school?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.