Frustrated car owners are turning to e-bikes, local shops say

The recent rise in fuel prices is leading to increased calls and visits from people looking to rethink the way they get around, say owners of stores selling e-bikes in Ottawa.

Carlos Ascencio, owner of eBike Plus in Hintonburg, says that in the past two weeks he’s had more visits than normal from people looking to replace their cars with an electric motor-assisted bike ride.

“They come and they say, ‘Listen, gas prices are going to go up from where they already are, so I want an e-bike,'” Ascencio said.

Sales of power-assisted bicycles, or e-bikes, in Canada have grown at an accelerated rate and are expected to increase further thanks to rising fuel prices, store owners say. (Philippe Morin/Radio-Canada)

Although she’s wanted an e-bike for years, Ottawa’s Mandy Foster says the economy prompted her to buy one last week.

“Honestly, with gas prices the way they are, it’s definitely become a more financially viable option,” Foster said.

Her new bike has an electric motor that only assists her when she pedals, but has enough power to help her tackle hills, haul cargo and increase her range. She says it can reduce her reliance on her car.

“I find that most of the trips I take in my car are short trips, within a five to 10 kilometer radius, and so being able to use a bike is definitely a better bet,” Foster said.

Carlos Ascencio, owner of eBike Plus in Hintonburg, says customers come to his store, making a direct link between high gas prices and their interest in an e-bike. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Foster’s new bike comes from Ottawa-based e-bike manufacturer and store Teslica E-Bikes, where Mahmoud Bisiso works as a service manager.

“We’ve been getting more phone calls and emails lately, and people are mentioning gas prices as a factor,” Bisiso said.

The renewed interest comes as e-bikes were already seeing skyrocketing sales numbers in North America, according to William Leishman, owner of Scooteretti in Ottawa’s Byward Market.

His store has been selling e-bikes since 2010 and says rising fuel costs are expected to throw the market into overdrive.

“A bit more [calls] have started and we expect that to skyrocket in the next week or two as people also return to work,” Leishman said.

“These gas prices are not just a temporary problem, it’s a long-term problem.”

Unlike electric motorcycles or scooters, electric-assist bicycles must be pedaled for the electric motor to provide thrust. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Apart from fuel prices and economy, new bike owner Foster says an intangible factor was also at play in her purchase.

“A bike is really about freedom,” Foster said. “I know I’m going to really enjoy this bike this summer.”

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