British Heart Foundation pull plug on electric bikes
The charity has banned the use of ‘pedelec’ electric bicycles from their annual London to Brighton ride, blocking the participation of potential fundraisers. Pedelecs (or e-bikes) are classed as bicycles under UK and EU law, so have the BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION taken a backward, discriminatory step?
In 2013, a team from leading electric bike retailer, Cycling Made Easy took part in the London to Paris off-road bike ride, raising £3000 for the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Half of the four man team used conventional bicycles, while the other half rode pedelecs.
If these same fundraisers wanted to raise money again for the BHF by riding in their London to Brighton event in June, they would not be allowed. In a u-turn by BHF officials, e-bikes have been denied entry into the popular event in 2016, despite e-bikes having the same legal classification as a conventional bicycle.
Electric bikes are bicycles with an in-built motor, which shares the effort of accelerating from 0 to 15.5mph, at which point the motor cuts out. At speeds above 15.5mph, the bike is powered solely by the rider. They are not designed to go faster than conventional bikes, but rather to get a rider to cruising speed quickly and safely. On the roads, this means accelerating away from traffic lights at the same speed as traffic or keeping a steady, predictable speed on hilly terrain.
“Ironically, many people with cardiovascular conditions are able to ride electric bikes”
Ironically, many people with cardiovascular conditions are able to ride electric bikes with more freedom than with a conventional bike. By managing the ‘peak’ exertions required to accelerate, or to climb uphill, an electric bike rider can remain in their physical activity ‘sweet spot’ for extended periods. Potential BHF fundraisers, cyclists with joint problems, asthma or fatigue conditions for example, will not be able to ride alongside more fortunate riders who are unaffected by the same issues.
“We had assurance from the BHF in 2015 that e-bikes would be allowed”
“Following discussions opened up by Cycling Made Easy, we had assurance from the British Heart Foundation in 2015 that e-bikes would be allowed to participate. It was one of our customers who had alerted us to their policy. Other charities allow electric bikes, for example the Capital2Coast ride also in June. In fact, one of our customers, Sean, who had to undergo triple bypass surgery was able to complete the John O’Groats to Lands End ride on an e-bike, raising thousands of pounds for his local hospice,” says Ray Wookey, director of Cycling Made Easy and member of the fundraising team in 2013.
Should fundraisers like Sean be turned away or embraced more than the regular participant? Sean was 70 when he participated in the ride, which illustrates another benefit. Older people, who make up the majority of those with cardiovascular conditions, don’t have to sit out on the sidelines once they have a pedelec. Shouldn’t the BHF be encouraging older people to get on their bikes, in whatever format that takes?
“There are a number of misconceptions about e-bikes”
Part of the problem is that there are a number of misconceptions about e-bikes. E-bikes are not mopeds or scooters on which you just sit and turn the throttle. ‘Pedelec’ style e-bikes work by rewarding effort, putting in more power when the rider applies more power. The BHF has the erroneous belief that pedelec riders will be charging around at dangerously high speeds. The truth is they’re not designed for speed. If anything, there will be more danger from badly maintained bikes and roadies racing to break personal records.
“By denying e-bike riders the chance to fundraise, the British Heart Foundation is taking a backward and discriminatory step. Wouldn’t it be inspiring if people who had heart conditions were able to take part in the ride with the help of an e-bike? We, and many people we’ve spoken to, think so. That’s why we’ve created a petition on Change.org to ask the British Heart Foundation to reconsider their position, to bring their policies in line with UK and EU law and make good on their promise to allow e-bike riders a chance to fundraise for them.”
Legal status of pedelecs: http://www.pedelecs.co.uk/electric-bike-guides/uk-electric-bike-law/
Cycling Made Easy’s BHF fundraising: Read more.
Sean Ahern’s charity ride: Read more