Last week we were on holiday in Lyme Regis, a seaside town perched on the edge of Devon, but residing in wet and windy Dorset. The rain lashed the Jurassic coast and during the occasional spells of sunny weather, we hunted for ammonites and snatched some exercise. Fairly early on in the week, I was sat admiring the view of the Cobb (the old harbour wall that featured in the movie ‘The French Lieutenants woman’) when a fit looking 50 something ambled by on an electric bike. My purist nose wrinkled in disdain.
A day or two – and several thousand gallons of rainwater – later, the sun peeped out, I grabbed my single speed and darted out of the door, bumping into our temporary next door neighbour.
Neighbour: ‘Off for a cycle?’
Me: ‘Yes, a couple of hours whilst the sun shines’.
Neighbour: ‘It’ll be ‘ard round ‘ere’.
Me: ‘I know! It’s lumpy and I’ll probably suffer on this’
Neighbour (pointing at bike): ‘Yeah……err……..good luck with that’.
I hopped on the bike, rolled the 200m or so to the sea front, then started to head up the main road in the direction of Seaton. The road climbed. And climbed. And climbed; an evil relentless hill that left no hiding place whatsoever. Such is the way with the coastal fringes of the UK. The ride was a brief exercise in suffering and I felt every mile. The flat bits provided brief respite from swift downhills and endorphin fuelled climbing.
But on return from this ride, I reflected a little more about the electric bike. I had no right whatsoever to wrinkle my nose at it. It’s the perfect utility vehicle for someone who has little interest in making every journey a battle (whether it’s a genuine or perceived ‘battle’), but every interest in getting around in the most efficient manner possible. The electric bike facilitates and enables, making unlikely journeys possible and providing a cost effective alternative to the motorcar. In most places – even hilly and sleepy Lyme – between the bus and the lecky bike, you can get almost anywhere, do almost anything. You know, I really hope these things take off, because as far as I’m concerned; anything that gets people out on two wheels is to be encouraged and celebrated.