By Maureen Becker, Executive Director
Some may say it is a cliché, but all indications point to the e-Bike as exactly that.
It is not a substitute for a strictly pedal-powered bicycle any more than a bicycle is a substitute for a patrol car, a motorcycle, an ambulance, or a good pair of walking shoes.
It is just one in the spectrum of apparatus public safety personnel can deploy in an effort to best serve their communities.
An IPMBA member once remarked that, as a firefighter, he selected the apparatus that best suited the situation, whether it be a brush truck, a ladder truck, a tiller, a fire boat, an ambulance, or a rescue squad. While this may be taboo to the “pedal purists”, there may yet be a place for the e-Bike in the public safety fleet.
Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there was a lot of resistance to bicycles, and even more so, bicycle training. Since the early 2000’s, there has been resistance against e-Bikes. They’re heavy. They’re clunky. They’re expensive. They break easily. They encourage laziness. But as Bob Dylan would sing, “The times they are a-changin’”. Today’s e-Bike is lighter, more responsive, and more affordable than in the past. And judging by the number of requests for best practices for e-Bike training and operations, more agencies are investing in them. And even more are intrigued by the possibilities.
Agencies that are adopting them are finding that they appeal to personnel who like the approachability and accessibility that bikes offer, but do not necessarily enjoy riding bikes, whether it be for reasons of weather, traffic, or terrain. On an e-Bike, they can go further and faster with less fatigue, but they can also slow down and interact with the members of their communities. They feel confident that at the end of a pursuit, they can dismount and engage without feeling already spent. They feel they can traverse challenging terrain – on- or off-road – and deliver life-saving measures in a timely manner in certain situations in which pedal bikes may not work as well.
Inasmuch as many IPMBA members enjoy riding bikes on duty because they are bicyclists, they like moving slowly enough to be more aware of their surroundings, and/or they like getting paid to exercise, the e-Bike presents opportunities to agencies seeking ways to enhance their bicycle operations, expand the number of personnel who pedal on duty, and encourage more community engagement.
Look no further than the article by Clint Sandusky in the last issue of IPMBA News, the call for E-Bike Task Force members on page nine of this issue, and the many articles posted at http://www.ipmba.org (search electric bikes) to begin to embrace the possibility and practicality of integrating e-Bikes into your pedal-powered fleet.