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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Woodside High School Electric Rider Project (ERP) - Day 1

The cold snap ended the first day I rode down to Woodside High to start working with the students. Unfortunately, the roads were still wet and my bike got very messy.  On the bright side, I was able to test the water resistance of my electrical system.  I also added an inexpensive (about $30.00) gauge that tells me how much electricity I'm using real time and keeps track of the amp hours that I use over the distance of my trip.  The $120 Cycle Analyst that we had on our cross country bikes gives a lot more information but it is more information than I understand and too expensive for the population that I am trying to get onto electric bikes.
I arrived on campus and saw a group of students hovering around the bicycle shed.  Only one female student was there and she was labeling and organizing tools.  The "guys" were more random and were delighted with my offer to try out my bike.  Even though they couldn't reach the pedals since my frame is so big, they got a great thrill getting pulled around by the front wheel hub motor.  It's not difficult getting them to appreciate the fun factor.  (The woman student didn't want to ride the bike.  She doesn't like bicycles after she had an accident as a child that split her chin open.  She likes to work with her hands and that's why she's involved with the bicycle club.)
After a while, we all headed to teacher Marin Aldrich's classroom.  Different groups of students were working on different components related to making the bicycle club work.  The idea is to build bikes out of  old bikes and sell them.  So students were talking about everything from getting old bikes donated, to soliciting bike shop support for parts, to researching Craigslist as a marketing tool, etc.
I spoke for about ten minutes about my vision for adding electric bikes to the program.  What I remember about my words was that I kept switching back and forth between talking about the micro details of putting together electric bicycles and the big picture of global sustainability.  The point being that repurposing existing bikes with or without motors is a very good way to reduce our carbon intensive impact on the planet.
Minimal new materials. (Maybe new tires, brake pads and seats.)
If the bicycle replaces a car trip, the impact becomes measurable.
Taking advantage of resources in the community fosters local engagement which is vital to building healthier communities.
Learning to build a bike encourages self sufficiency which is an important part of growing up as well as a  necessity in the carbon constrained world that awaits our children.

I finished off my visit with a conversation with one of the students about building storage for donated bikes and an outdoor work bench attached to the shed.  Vital and simple projects that need to be done soon.

The following day, I met my sister Catherine at Oracle headquarters which was about a 25 mile round trip bike ride.  With my new gauge, I observed that I used less than 7 amp hours to cover the distance.  When I compared that to a car that gets about 25 miles per gallon, my electricity cost was under 10 cents whereas the cost of gas for the trip would have been over $3.00.  Another fun feature was that I got to my destination in the same or slightly less time than it would have taken in a car.  I rode during rush hours and by using back roads and riding alongside cars at intersections, I was able to keep a good average speed that got me to Oracle quite fast.
The bad news was that on the way home, Catherine was cut off by a car driver who turned right in front of her. She crashed into the car, fell off her bike and the driver didn't even stop.
It's dangerous out there so be careful!!!


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