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Electric Bikes in Sarasota Are On A Roll

Sarasota's Pedego Electric Bikes sells electric-powered bicycles for riders who want to exercise, save money on gas or keep the planet a bit more green.

Update Aug. 21, 2012: The business decided to change its name to Pedego Electric Bikes of Sarasota

Living on a large, steep hill in Bellows Falls, Vermont, made riding bikes a challenge for Deborah and Michael Weatherby, so they set out to find a way to motor up that hill. What they found were electronic-powered bicycles.

The idea was so good, in fact, they decided to invest in the concept and opened a store that sells e-bikes.

"We were really surprised: These are really going gangbusters and they were selling a lot up there," Deborah Weatherby said about the store they opened two years ago. "So we decided to open a store here, too ... about a year ago."

While hills aren't an issue in Florida, skyrocketing gas prices, traffic and parking certainly are, which make bicycles a viable option. And an e-bike that can power itself through a long ride? Even better.

The little shop, Freedom 4 Electric Bikes, at 3604 S. Osprey Ave. is packed with a few dozen Pedego brand e-bikes, which are specifically manufactured to run on a motor. Molded onto the frame of each bike is a rack that holds a 36-volt lithium ion battery that's slightly larger than a rectangular Kleenex box.

The battery is locked in place with a key, but slides out easily and can be charged in any wall outlet. While the cost of a gallon of gas is hovering around $4, a charge for this battery costs about 12 cents, Weatherby said. 

The battery powers a brushless, gearless 500-watt motor that's fully encased in the rear hub of the bike, which is designed to look like a California beach cruiser — and it's also right at home in Southwest Florida.

— Rate and Review Freedom 4 Electric Bikes on Patch —

Riders can let the no-exhaust, zero-emissions motor do all the work or they can pedal without assistance. They can also choose anywhere in between with a twist of the throttle, similar to a motorcycle. Because the e-bike can run about 15 miles without any pedal assistance, Weatherby says a common ride might be from downtown, over the Ringling bridge and up to Bradenton Beach along State Route 789 and back again after a quick battery charge.

Interest and demand in Sarasota have been so good for the e-bikes, which start at $1,695, that Weatherby says her shop is in the process of expanding and converting into a concept store for the Irvine, California-based Pedego.

Weatherby will offer all styles and colors and accessories, like lights, saddlebags, baskets, helmets and more, including the Tommy Bahama Pedego model.

Because they go below 20 miles per hour, riders won't need a license or registration and they can still pedal through the bike lanes around town.

"People set out on e-bikes who normally wouldn’t set out on long treks," Weatherby said. "Because they know they can get back."

Eric Clapp April 13, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Very interesting indeed. . .I am curious as to the county/city law inforcement position as it pertains to the use of these motor assited bikes. I live in North Port where it is against the law (city law) to ride any electric alternative method of transportation on the sidewalks. Thank you. . . Eric Clapp North Port
Don DiCostanzo April 13, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Eric, Florida DMV Procedure RS-61 II Electric Helper-Motor Bicycles "If you are at least 16 years old, a person may ride a bicycle that is propelled by a combination of human power (pedals) and an electric helper-motor that cannot go faster than 20 mph on level ground without a driver license.[47] Motorized Bicycles and Motorized Scooters Under Title 23, Chapter 316 of the code, bicycles and motorized bicycles are defined as follows: Bicycle--Every vehicle propelled solely by human power, and every motorized bicycle propelled by a combination of human power and an electric helper motor capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on level ground upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels, and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels. The term does not include such a vehicle with a seat height of no more than 25 inches from the ground when the seat is adjusted to its highest position or a scooter or similar device. No person under the age of 16 may operate or ride upon a motorized bicycle." Sidewalk riding is another issue which in many places, even a bicycle is precluded from riding on the sidewalk. The local police department would be the best place to find out about your city. Generally, if a bike is allowed, so it as electric bike as long as it goes less than 20 mph under power alone.
Lois A Levin April 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Good article. I saw an ebike at this store for $799 or $899 at most. Not as colorful as the photo, but just as functional and comfortable. This is an ideal form of transport for short trips. Sarasota's roads are often over capacity and so many cars are single occupancy; the traffic heading south is awful. Fortunately there are some alternate routes, but they also get overcrowded in season. Just taking a small percentage of these cars off the road will improve traffic flow and reduce trip time for everyone. Motorists should be grateful to the increasing number of cyclists, and be very careful to help them stay safe on the roads we all share. These bikes provide exercise, and are non-polluting.

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