Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fighting Power with Power in Brockville


This power-assist bicycle was spotted on the suburban outskirt of Brockville. Yes, Brockville, a town of 22000, has a suburban outskirt, a modern style suburban development, with biggie sized store-fronts, biggie sized parking lots and biggie sized roadways, circa 2005.

It looks a lot like the town of Brockville received a provincial government grant for traffic lights, as there is one every 100 metres on the stretch of road we took. Many of the parking lot entranceways don’t line up, so there is a separate set of lights for each one.

This isn’t the real Brockville though. I used to live in Brockville, back in the mid-90's for one long winter. The town itself has a walkable historic center with friendly people and views of the St. Lawrence River. (I like the story on Wikipedia about how Brockville got named. It sounds a lot like how Cheney became the VP candidate. You can start reading that CNN article at "the governor has settled on Dick")

Back then I engaged in active transportation, motivated by finance and common sense. The idea of owning a car was a luxury I couldn't consider as a student. And, while the town had a bus system, I never successfully figured out the schedule and transfers necessary such that it could be faster than walking. So walk was what I did.

For nostalgia's sake, I mapped out my walking route. It was definitely longer than most people would like, and it was longer than I often liked. It would have made an ideal bike commute, but Brockville can get big loads of snow and I didn't know about studded tires.

The map shows my normal weekday walking route. On Friday nights, it was another matter, especially after the Walmart opened up. Along with one or two other students in town, we would walk from work north to the Walmart, where we would marvel at the low price of music magazines. I'm sure there were low-priced small appliances there too, but if the appliance wasn't a toaster, it might as well have been an industrial pizza oven.

After Walmart, we'd walk the length of the town down to a bar on the waterfront. I never felt like I was held back by my lack of car, except when I got the urge to leave town. By foot we could cover the whole old part of town, plus a little extra.

With a power-assist bike, most people can get themselves from one edge of the Greater Brockville Area to the other.

Darren J 9/28/2006 10:36:00 PM

3 Comments:

Hey Darren!

Did you speak with the owner/operator of the power assist bike? Have you ever ridden one? Heard any comments?

I've heard only one opinion ... which was very favourable; though, that was only regarding a short trial ride. I wonder about durability/longevity/etc. Just last Saturday (Sept. 23rd) I say a 'Bionx' P.A bike ride by while I was in Loving Nature (health food store) on Kingston Rd at Victoria Park. I'll keep an eye out for the guy and speak with him if I get a chance.

There are two types, if I'm not mistaken. One in which the power assist is ALWAYS on while pedaling. The other, whereby the operator can engage/disengage as needed (and selecting the level of assist) ... including a power generation mode: Bion-x is of this type, and is a Canadian (Quebec) company. For those interested.

What were you studying in Brockville, by the way (if you don't mind sharing such info with your readers)?

David. (Healthy Guy)
Hi David,

Good to hear from you again. I never actually saw the owner of the bike, so I couldn't ask any questions. I've never ridden one either.

This one has an interesting design with the motors (and batteries?) right in the wheels. I suppose they have a freewheel of some kind that allows the power to be disengaged.

I was living there on a work term for 4 months. I was working at a telecom company that was part of Nortel.
I'm not that familiar with power assist bikes, but the fellow over at cleverchimp.com has put together something called a "stokemonkey" that works with the Xtracycle free radical. The device is described as being like a stoker on a tandem bicycle.

The whole package of bicycle, xtracycle and stokemonkey would be pretty expensive, but much cheaper than a car. The motor assist would be good for hauling lots of stuff.

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