It’s 5:15 a.m. and the sky is just starting to lighten in the east as Becki Morin rolls her electric bike out of her garage in Falmouth.

Morin lives about six miles from Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she is a nurse practitioner. She says she used to ride a conventional bike to work one day a week, but often arrived sweaty. Since she and her husband bought e-bikes in May, she says the commute has been easy, and she now rides to work almost every day, unless it’s raining.

“With gas prices going up so much, both of us, our commute is so short, there’s no reason to drive five or six miles to work,” Morin says. “And it’s beautiful, the journey is beautiful. . . And every time I do it, I’m so happy. It’s crazy, but it’s true.”

And with that, Morin rolls into the morning, her taillight shining in the dawn, a smile on her face.

Morin is not alone – e-bikes have become extremely popular. While many Mainers are using them for recreation, others rely on them for functional transportation or in lieu of a car. Transportation planners see e-bikes as part of the state’s effort to meet its climate goals over the next three decades.

Doug Watts, who sells e-bikes at Lincoln and Main Electric Bike Café and Winery in South Portland, says e-bikes make people happy.

Lincoln and Main, Watts.jpg

Murray Carpenter


Maine Public

Doug Watts is the co-founder and operations manager of Lincoln and Main, an e-bike shop and cafe in South Portland. He says many cyclists return from test rides with an “e-bike smile”.

“We call it the e-bike smile,” says Watts. “You ride an e-bike and you turn around, smile, inevitably, everyone is. Even the naysayers, who are tough bike guys like I was at first, “Oh, it’s cheating.” Well, sometimes, if you want to call it cheating, it can be fun.”

Most e-bikes in the shop are similar in design to traditional bikes, which Watts calls “acoustic bikes,” but they have an electric motor that assists the rider’s pedaling, adding a boost of power. The batteries are recharged by plugging into a household outlet and typically last tens of miles per charge. Watts uses it to take his child to school and is starting to see many other parents doing the same.

He shows a cargo bike with racks that will carry a load of 400 kilograms.

“This will easily replace a car,” says Watts. “You can see how this bike is set up with the rack. Take your kid, carry your groceries, carry two kids and your groceries. You can install a basket on the front. 400 pounds is a lot.”

E-bikes are not cheap. Most cost between $1,000 and $4,000, but Watts says the store sold more than 50 in its first year.

Nationwide, the National Bicycle Dealers Association reports that sales of e-bikes nearly doubled last year, to more than 800,000, about 4% of the total bicycle market.

Jim Tasse of the Maine Bicycle Coalition says e-bikes have a lot of appeal.

Lincoln and Maine cargo bike.jpg

Murray Carpenter


Maine Public

This electronic cargo bike has a capacity of 400 pounds. Watts says it will easily carry a cyclist with two children and some groceries.

“You get more range, you have more mobility and you have more comfort,” says Tasse.

And Tasse says as they move forward, they can drive infrastructure improvements for all Mainers who prefer car-free transportation.

“The more bikes that are out there, the more people that are on the road with them, the more planners and designers will start to say, ‘We really need to accommodate these vehicles in a particular way.’ , he says.

Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation, says that’s already happening and that her department is focused on designing roads for safety.

“I think bicycle fatalities could go up because I think you’re going to get more people riding,” Taylor says. “I think we’re not going to go all the way to making all of our roads as safe as I would like them to be. And so I worry about that and that’s part of our focus on this issue. . We want people to feel like they can get on our system and feel safe and that’s a conversation we’re definitely having internally in all of our projects.”

Morin, on Back Cove Trail.jpg

Murray Carpenter


Maine Public

Morin’s ride includes part of the Back Cove Trail, where she can often see the sunrise over Casco Bay.

But Taylor, who is also active with the Maine Climate Council, says e-bikes can play a role in reducing car and truck travel, as measured in vehicle miles traveled, or VMT.

“It makes that trip to the store that’s maybe 3-4 miles away, a lot of people would take the e-bike now, instead of driving,” Taylor says. “So I think it’s a means to reduce vehicle miles traveled. . . And of course, as part of our climate goals, reducing VMT is a strategy we’re proposing.”

Morin’s early morning commute to the Maine Medical Center takes him on some roads that have bike lanes and some that don’t. And she also drives part of Portland’s Back Cove Trail, where she pauses briefly to take in the sunrise over Casco Bay as traffic winds past on I-295.

Soon, Morin is at the hospital, where she locks her bike in a rack just 50 feet from the front door, saving her the time and trouble of leaving the garage where she parks when she drives. She says she and her husband still like to ride regular bikes for recreation, but their e-bikes are all about functional transportation.

“As of May, I think there’s 550 miles on this bike,” says Morin. “And it’s just places I would have driven, it wasn’t just to go out for a joyride.”

And while it’s not a pleasure, per se, Morin says the ride is often the best part of her day.

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