Ottawa

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

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

Local shops report jump in interest due to rising gas prices

William Leishman, owner of Scooteretti in Ottawa's ByWard Market, says he expects the long-term prognosis for higher fuel prices will encourage more car owners to consider purchasing a power-assisted bicycle. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

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

Carlos Ascencio, owner of eBike Plus in Hintonburg, says in the past two weeks he's had more visits than normal from people looking to substitute their car use with a bike ride that's power-assisted by an electric motor.

"They come and they say, 'Listen, gas prices will go higher than what they already are, so I want an e-bike,'" Ascencio said. 

Sales of power-assisted bicycles, or e-bikes, in Canada have been climbing at an accelerated rate and stand to increase even more thanks to higher fuel prices, say shop owners. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Even though she's been wanting a power-assisted bike for years, Ottawa's Mandy Foster says economics helped lead her to finally purchase one last week.

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

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

"I find most of the trips I do take in my car are short trips, within five to 10 kilometres, and so being able to use a bike is definitely a better solution," said Foster.

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

Foster's new bike is from the Ottawa-based e-bike maker and shop Teslica E-Bikes, where Mahmoud Bisiso works as the service manager. 

"We've been receiving more phone calls and emails lately, and people are mentioning gas prices as a factor," said Bisiso.

The jump in interest comes as e-bikes were already recording red hot sales numbers in North America, according to William Leishman, the owner of the Scooteretti in Ottawa's ByWard Market.

His shop has been selling e-bikes since 2010 and says the higher cost of fuel is set to launch the market into overdrive.

"A few more [calls] have started and we're anticipating that will skyrocket in the next week or two as people are also returning back to work," said Leishman.

"These gas prices are not just a temporary issue, this is a long-term issue."

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

Regardless of the price of fuel and the economics, new bike owner Foster says an intangible factor was also at play in her purchase. 

"A bike really is about freedom," said Foster. "I know I'm thoroughly going to enjoy this bike this summer."

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