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Electric bicyclist forges path to lower energy lifestyle

As gas prices hover around $3 per gallon, many drivers have contemplated the unthinkable - trading in their SUVs for compacts.

Fort Collins resident and psychotherapist Carl Nassar went a step further. He parked his car and bought an electric bicycle.
"On my new electric bike, I travel 62 miles for the cost of 8 cents in electricity," he said. Nassar is not opposed to technology, but he's bothered most Americans drive 2,000 pound cars to go only a few miles at a time. Nassar said he can ride his near-silent, 60-pound electric bike for a fraction of the price. His vehicle releases no emissions, and he arrives at his destination as quickly as his car-driving compatriots.

Nassar's decision to go electric was based partly on economics, but he also believes he can serve as an example of how Americans can transition gracefully into an era when cheap energy is a thing of the past.
Most people tend to view running out of cheap, abundant energy as negative; but as a psychotherapist, Nassar believes there's a positive side. Without cheap energy, he said, people will have to depend more on each other. The key, he said, is the formulation of an "energy descent pathway" that leads us to a new way of life. "My hope is that, as we have less energy, we're forced to rely more on our communities," said Nassar. "We'll rely more on community farming and agriculture, and the side effect is that we'll get to know each other again. This will help our communities reconnect."

Nassar's personal energy descent pathway began on the Internet. On one particular Web site, he found an article about alternative modes of transportation. (www.nycewheels.com) He originally looked into getting an electric scooter, but his research indicated the technology wasn't far enough along. A store in New York recommended that Nassar investigate electric bicycles. "When I found out there was a cruiser model available, the decision was easy," he said.
Nassar's electric bike plugs into a standard wall socket and charges fully in four hours. The bicycle was purchased with an additional charger - one for home and one for a second location. With two chargers, it is possible to ride as many as 25 miles to work, recharge the bike during the day and ride home.
"I live and work in Old Town, and maybe that makes all this a little easier," Nassar said. "But there are enough bike lanes and bike trails here that you can have a comfortable ride almost anywhere in town." So why not just ride a non-motorized bike? "I have a regular bike and I do bike to work," Nassar said. "But there are many times when I'm too beat to ride 12 miles round trip to go to a meeting after work or to my favorite grocery store. "The thing about all of this is, it's totally fun. I can travel effortlessly at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. I have a hoot riding my electric bike."

While Fort Collins has become increasingly bike-friendly, the city prohibits electric bicycles in some areas. Dave Kemp, bicycle coordinator for the city of Fort Collins, said it is legal to ride electric assisted bicycles in bike lanes and on bike ways. However, there is a Parks and Recreation Department policy prohibiting electric-assisted bicycles on park trails.

For his ride, Nassar chose an eZee Cadence cruiser, but there are many manufacturers and models of electric bicycles available at the click of a mouse. Nassar's Cruiser cost $1,500 plus shipping and assembly. Completely outfitted with a 100-pound-capacity trailer, the total package cost about $2,000. Or, about the cost of a year's worth of gasoline.

"My hope is that my life can be a model of what things could look like in the future," Nassar said. "A lower-energy lifestyle - not a lower standard of living by any means, but a lower energy lifestyle."


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