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E-Bikes Provide Seniors Improved Mobility

LACBC introduces e-bike safety training to seniors in Long Beach and South Los Angeles.

By: Alejandra Alvarez, Project Manager

“What is an e-bike, anyway?’

asked Zonna, a member of Ahmanson Senior Center. LACBC received several calls from seniors interested in our event, many of whom did not have the slightest idea what an e-bike was, much less how it could improve their mobility. The lack of awareness and growing curiosity about e-bikes from our community members and partners indicated to us that this is a needed resource.

So what is an e-bike and why do they matter to seniors?

An e-bike is a bicycle with an electrically powered motor. The motor provides an extra boost that can help you climb hills, keep up with traffic, or just go longer distances. E-Bikes with pedal assist turn on the motor when the rider pedals. E-Bikes with throttles can turn on the motor to propel the bike even when the rider does not pedal. For more information on e-bikes, follow us on YouTube and look out for our upcoming e-bike e-training!

Long Beach, CA - Long Beach Grey Panthers @ Long Beach Senior Center, 8/13/21

As members of the Long Beach Senior Center slowly crowded in, eyes peered over to the fleet of Himiway Bikes that laid out in front of them. While some seniors remained skeptical about their safety, “I won’t ride one of those things but they sure are pretty”, said one member, others shared their eagerness to test the e-bikes. “Wow, now these look sturdy!”, mentioned one senior, who said it had been years since she rode on a bicycle.

Seniors learn about helmet adjustment, appropriate cycling wear, hand signaling, and more. For more information about bike safety, consider enrolling in a FREE Metro BEST class.

Before seniors could test the e-bikes, they participated in a brief bike safety training session, taught by our partner and League Cycling Instructor, Nathalie Winiarski. With the growing popularity of e-bikes, it is imperative to provide seniors with bike safety training to mitigate injuries caused by collisions, especially since seniors account for the highest number of head injuries and fatalities among all cyclists.

South Los Angeles, CA - Ahmanson Senior Center @ EXPO, 8/16/21

When we approached the Ahmanson Senior Center to collaborate on e-bike safety training, the director, Baia Louie, also expressed interest in learning more about e-bikes, having no prior experience. Our event was the first for seniors at the Ahmanson Senior Center since the pandemic prompted the center’s shut down. Members slowly trickled in, many of whom were excited to just be back with their friends at the center. “I don’t even

Kevin Shin guides Martha through her first bike ride eve!

know how to ride a bike”, said Martha, but was looking for a new way to get active.

Those who had some familiarity with e-bikes were shocked to learn how much more affordable e-bikes have become in recent years. "The price isn’t too bad when you consider the cost of a car” mentioned Patrice, who rides her exercise bike three times a week at the Expo Center fitness room. The sustainability of riding a bike is among the three most significant reasons seniors chose bicycles over automobiles. Almost a third of seniors in California live under the federal poverty line, earning a median annual income of $21,300. Purchasing a car, automobile insurance, and maintenance costs are not realistic for most of the senior population in California. Riding an e-bike provides a cheaper, faster alternative for everyone, but especially seniors who are among the most vulnerable members of our community who experience mobility issues.

Benefits of E-Bikes

While mobility issues are common across all age groups, individuals over the age of 59 are at greater risk of developing complications with their mobility due to physical inactivity. E-bikes are unique to the cycling community because they provide many of the same health benefits as riding a regular bike, except they require less exertion, which is essential for seniors who may have preexisting health conditions. This was true for Josefine at the Long Beach Senior Center, who initially struggled to get her leg over the bike.

Josefine conquers her fear of riding a bike and prevails!

“It was difficult to get on that thing but once the motor kicked in that push helped me keep going.” Josefine was one of several seniors who were skeptical about riding an e-bike, but once she tried it, thoroughly enjoyed it. In addition to the physical benefits, e-bikes are also proven to increase cognitive function and overall well-being. Riding e-bikes offers cyclists the opportunity to meaningfully engage with their surrounding environments and even other people! As Rosie phrased it, “I only came today to see my friends who I haven’t seen in a year!”, as she gleefully waved over at her friend, Crystal. A less obvious benefit of e-bikes for seniors is the community they develop with other cyclists. As we continue to battle through this pandemic, it’s vital to consider how e-bikes provide seniors access to their community in safer ways.

All Things Considered

As we wrapped up our e-bike demonstration, we were left with a satisfying feeling that we had done good work by our seniors. We watched seniors overcome their fears of riding an e-bike and witnessed the boost in confidence that the pedal-assist gave them. The interest in e-bike safety alone informed us that this is a needed resource. However, the joy and laughter from the senior’s on these e-bikes reminds us of the power of mobility justice and the great work ahead of us to continue promoting safer, healthier, and more sustainable methods of transportation for all.

We want to thank the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) for funding this project and The Long Beach Grey Panthers and Ahmanson Senior Center for their dedicated collaboration.

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