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Active Transportation: Joining the World of E-gadgets

“Excuse me…” I felt embarrassed to interrupt the man in overalls crossing the forecourt. “Sorry to bother you. I know this sounds ridiculous but I can’t open my petrol cap!” It had been six months since I put petrol in my car and it seemed I had totally forgotten where the release button was to open the cap. Despite my best efforts fumbling around to find the catch, I had failed, and opted for accosting the nearest passer-by, possibly with a streak of sexism given I chose the man in a dirty blue work onesy.

Putting petrol in my car has become a distant memory.

These days, I ride my bike just about everywhere, or use a new e-gadget that clips onto the front of my wheelchair. I resisted the latter for a long time, feeling that it made by manual wheelchair more like an electric wheelchair, and that as I can use my arms I should use them.  However, the grin on my face is contagious as I fly up and down previously grueling hills. I am loaded with shopping, do all my errands, and perhaps grab a cuppa with a friend along the way too. What would previously have taken me all morning and a lot of urban kerfuffle is now fun, quick and easy. Not to mention how much happier my shoulders are for the lack of climbing in and out of the car and lugging the wheelchair in and out with me. 

The need and desire to use my car has dropped off. I have no impulse to trade fresh air and fun for traffic jams and parking faff, especially in town and anywhere within striking distance of my arms or battery. Exploring the limits of striking distance has been quite an appealing pastime too. I have recently been known to career down a Pyrenean mountain pass from France to Spain, tourists oggling and grabbing footage on their mobile phones at the vision of a mad woman in a wheelchair e-gadget descending rapidly. The 25km journey from the village downwards saw me arrive with a full battery; genius! It re-charges itself when freewheeling 🙂

It seems many people are zipping around on various power-assisted gadgetry, the kind of stuff that once seemed futuristic. As battery sizes and efficiencies increase, the gadgets seem to get better and faster. “What was that thingamajig!” I heard a pedestrian say in amazement yesterday as a ‘thing’ went flying by.

Research confirms that ‘Active Transportation’ is growing in a dramatic fashion. These means of micro-mobility (mainly e-bikes and scooters) are leading to a reduction in car reliance, and attracting a new audience of people who might normally ride a bike infrequently, or not at all. This all sounds great for improving health and decreasing carbon emissions. It would be interesting though to know the carbon-offset of trading car use with all the extra power being used to charge batteries.

My nephew flying his bike : I couldn’t chase him down on my e-gadget 🙂

Meanwhile, I take my near-daily ride on my non e-handbike up the local hill – well I can’t train for the Paralympics and get too friendly with a battery-powered gadget can I?! The advantage is I have found new training partners: previously not-so-active friends willing to ride long and far with me. They accelerate into the distance, turbo-mode engaged, and wait for me in the café at the top, re-charging their batteries – literally and metaphorically. Haha, I suspect they are consuming as many calories in coffee, cake and Haribo waiting for me as they just burnt up the climb.

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