After years commuting to the navy base in Esquimalt by car, East Sooke resident Dave Dyer decided to conduct a little experiment. He made sure the gas tank in his pickup truck was filled before he set off for work, and after doing his commute filled it up again, to see how much gas he was using.
“I’d never paid attention before, but I filled it up and realized I was spending $14 and change every day on gas, just for my commute.”
With the cost and the worsening traffic which was “getting horrendous,” Dyer said – turning a 35-minute drive into an hour and 15-minute commute – he decided to start researching electric bikes. He went into Fuca Cycles on Sooke Road and was convinced. He got rid of his truck and bought an electric bike for $3,400 at the start of this year, and said he has no plans to go back.
Dyer had cycled to work in the past when there was a ferry to catch at Colwood to take him to the base, but with the e-bike, he’s able to cycle along the Galloping Goose Trail and E&N Rail Trail all the way to the base in about an hour and a half. The gas savings alone will pay for the bike in two years.
“It’s extremely healthy, you get to work and your exercise is done for the day. My wife owns a gym and I never go in there.”
As well as the health benefits and the cost factor, the bikes are good for the environment. Dyer said he considered an electric car, but noted a bike requires fewer materials to make and uses less electricity.
Fuca Cycles owner Chris Forbes sees the traffic along Highway 14 crawl past his business and is having more and more people – around five a day – coming into the store asking about electric bikes.
“The impetus used to be – last year – about exercise and just getting outside and, ‘Oh I can’t travel.’ Now the impetus is actually, ‘I want to ditch my car.’”
Forbes said a number of people like Dyer have made that switch.
“He came in and told me it’s changed his life, that he feels 100 times better. But also the fact that he’s passing people on the Goose when they’re standing in the traffic.”
The store currently has just over a dozen bikes of varying prices in stock, which is significantly more than they’ve had in previous years with supply chain issues and massive demand for recreation equipment during the pandemic. They vary in cost, starting around $2,000 and reaching up to $17,000 for higher-end, mountain bike style models. There are some cheaper models people can order online from overseas, but Forbes said they aren’t built to ensure they stay under the trail speed limit of 32 km/h. West Shore RCMP has also ramped up monitoring of the trail system with speed guns, so people should be wary before buying a higher-powered bike, he said.
The battery life of an e-bike – how long the rider can be assisted – varies depending on how much assistance is used, but Dyer said he can ride to and from work without having to charge.
As well as instituting measures to ease traffic congestion and encouraging people to ride transit, the District of Sooke is looking to improve its trail system to ease traffic concerns. Projects in the district’s parks and trails master plan identify the need to connect existing trails to bike lanes to make travelling by bike easier.
With the Galloping Goose Trail already right next to Sooke, Forbes expects to see more people making the switch.
“It’s not just a fad, honest to god it’s an actual shift in society.”
Interested riders can find out more about e-bikes at an information session scheduled for Saturday, March 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 5871 Sooke Rd.