Windsor's new e-bikes may not be cost effective, but advocates still think you should give them a try

·4 min read
Bird Canada charges $1.15 to unlock the ride and $0.42 per minute after that.  (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Bird Canada charges $1.15 to unlock the ride and $0.42 per minute after that. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Electric bikes may be easier on the environment, but they might not have the same effect on your pocketbook.

A few months after Bird Canada launched its e-scooters in May last year, a limited number of e-bikes also arrived in Windsor. This spring the company brought the e-scooters back out on Windsor's downtown streets, along with about 100 e-bikes.

The vehicles are part of a pilot project that was approved by city council two years ago. While there's been some complaints since the launch related to the way the devices are being used or how they are being parked, active transportation and environmental advocates say it's a good start for the auto-centric city.

But, when it comes to cost, the e-bike isn't necessarily cheaper.

CBC News explored how feasible using an e-bike is compared to a cab. An e-bike and cab were taken from the intersection at Riverside Drive West and Huron Church Road, near the University of Windsor, to Wyandotte Street East and Lincoln Road in Walkerville.

The cab fare ended up being about on par with the e-bike, both costing around $12.00 and that's not including a tip for the cab driver. When looking at Uber, the app said the same route would cost $18 — that's also without a tip for the driver.

According to Bird Canada, it costs $1.15 to activate the e-bike and then $0.42 per minute of use, which begins whether you start riding the bike or not.

"I thought an electric bike would be cheaper to run and a cab would be more with the price of gas these days." - Holly Mutterback, Windsor resident

Bird Canada told CBC News in an emailed statement that the cost of its electric devices in Windsor are "among the lowest in North America."

"It is difficult to compare e-bikes to taxis when taxis are affected by traffic and e-bikes generally aren't — so the time to get to the same destination is not the same," a Bird Canada spokesperson said in an email, adding that the company offers "multiple ride pass options" that are "heavily discounted," though details on those were not provided.

Reasons to go electric 

Holly Mutterback, who lives in Walkerville, said the cost of the e-bike was surprising, but it's not a deterrent because the bike gives you "fresh air."

"I thought an electric bike would be cheaper to run and a cab would be more with the price of gas these days," she said.

Some Windsorites told CBC News that they would choose an e-bike for the sake of the environment and the experience.

"I think depending on the weather, yes [it's an option], mainly because you are still helping the environment and I've seen, not really a ton of the e-bikes, but I know we have a lot of the e-scooters downtown that people ride around on and they always look like a lot of fun to ride on," said Windsor resident Mya Bezaire.

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

Environmental advocate Jana Jandal Alrifai said she would prefer the cost to be lower than a cab, especially since the bikes can only be used in downtown Windsor at this time, which has a higher population of people who are of lower socioeconomic status.

She said people debating between a cab or e-bike, should choose the active transportation option as it might be the push people need to engage in that activity.

"You have to think of it as the start of your journey into alternative transportation, into active transportation," said Jandal Alrifai, who is the president of the Windsor-Essex Youth Climate Change Council.

"It is significantly more fun to ride a bike, than it is to be in a cab. As a woman, I am much more comfortable being on a bike by myself."

She added that you also avoid traffic, it's a bit friendlier on the environment and allows you to experience the city in a new way.

Anneke Smit, an associate law professor at the University of Windsor and the director of the Windsor Law Centre for Cities, told CBC News that there's many reasons to choose a bike or e-bike.

She agreed that it's "experiential" and allows people to feel like they are actively engaging with their city.

Smit also mentioned that this might be a better option for older adults, as it doesn't require as much physical exercise. And even if the city's biking infrastructure isn't at an ideal point, this might encourage those changes.

"We might not have the infrastructure now, but as more people get on bikes ... the more our culture shifts," she said.

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