Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


I love electric bikes (Jun19)

Sailing through the countryside. Exploring hidden routes. Getting some much needed exercise…  It’s wonderful.  

View from Eggarden Hill in Dorset

The strange thing is that when I say that I’ve taken up electric bikes, one of the most common reactions is for people to say that ‘it’s cheating’.  It’s as if I was doing something ‘synthetic’ rather than ‘natural’ – not the real thing.  The key to this is the perception that you don’t get any exercise.  Actually, you do.  Firstly, because the bike won’t produce power, unless you’re pedalling, but also because you end up cycling many miles, as opposed to not biking at all, or travelling by car. 

Actually, we had quite an adventure.  At one point I cycled past a crowd lining the streets of a small village – and waved at them before discovering that we were following the route of about to be released fighting bulls.  We found our route barricaded and had to make a hasty retreat before the ‘corrida’ started. 

I’ve just been to the South of France.  We cycled 88km in a day.  It was fairly flat terrain most of the way, but we had aching limbs by the time we got back to our hotel – and I slept better than I have in years.  

I also managed to catch the wheel of my bike in a tram line, as we entered Avignon, and catapulted into a barricade.  My injuries, however, were surpassed by my husbands – as he managed to trip over a tree fence as he hastened to come to my rescue. He had gashes to his legs and a huge lump on his knee.  We survived – and it hasn’t put us off.  

About 10 years ago, I was loaned some electric bikes, when living in Somerset. They opened up a world of possibilities as we cycled off to scenic locations, stopping en route for pub lunches or to visit friends.  But, we only got our own bikes a few months ago – and I’ve started full blown exploration of the beautiful and hilly landscape around our home in West Dorset. 

Last week, there was an article in the Times berating the rise of electric bikes.  People are complaining about it becoming too popular and being taken up by the elderly, who are then going too fast!  One of the concerns raised was particularly ridiculous – electric bikers played loud music as they went along!  More seriously, it was suggested that these bikes should be classified as a motor-bike and only able to go on roads.  Quel horreur… 

No activity is without its down sides.  If we hadn’t cycled on our french trip, we would have gone by car.  That would certainly have been less eco, less fun and not so good for our health (apart from the accident).  I’d far rather see the countryside teaming with electric bikes, than cars.  Try them out and see what fun they are…. 

Also – see Sustrans, who are creating cycle routes all over the country – A National Cycle Network.

My eldest son, Connor, on Eggarden Hill

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