Commuting with a Bike-Electric Vehicle

Duke highlights bike commuting during 'Bike to Work Week'

David Jamieson-Drake rides in his ELF vehicle by Trent Hall. He started riding the bike-electric vehicle hybrid in March as a way to save money and help the environment. Photo by Bryan Roth.
David Jamieson-Drake rides in his ELF vehicle by Trent Hall. He started riding the bike-electric vehicle hybrid in March as a way to save money and help the environment. Photo by Bryan Roth.

In March, David Jamieson-Drake started riding a new kind of bike to work.

After driving and parking near his office at Trent Hall for the past 10 years, Jamieson-Drake now leaves his Prius at home and rides an ELF - a bike-electric vehicle hybrid that uses no gas, parks at a bike rack and saves him upward of $100 a month in fuel and parking costs.

The egg-shaped vehicle rides on three wheels and has solar panels on its top to charge a lithium ion battery. Energy is used to power headlights, turn lights, brake lights and a motor to accelerate the vehicle when Jamieson-Drake doesn't pedal or travels on steep terrain. It's an energy and cost-efficient way for Jamieson-Drake to travel from his home off Old Erwin Road to work each day at speeds up to 35 miles per hour.

"I love riding a bike, so it's enjoyable, but I love not buying gas," said Jamieson-Drake, director of the Office of Institutional Research. "It's a joy to help the environment and get fit. I look forward to riding my ELF and I never looked forward to driving."

Jamieson-Drake is one of many using pedal power to commute during Bike to Work Week May 13 to 17. It's part of National Bike Month, an annual event sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists to promote alternative forms of travel.

Duke will mark the occasion with two events. From 8 to 10 a.m. May 17, Parking and Transportation Services, along with Sustainable Duke and GoTriangle, will host a bicyclist appreciation event at the Bryan Center Plaza for Duke community members to meet fellow cyclists and learn more about benefits of bike commuting. There will be prize giveaways and food, while supplies last.

On May 18, Duke will hold an educational bike commuter course from 1 to 4 p.m. as instructors cover basic bike maintenance and repair, state bike laws, safe biking tips and offer an on-bike campus tour. The event will be held in room 123 in the Old Chemistry Building.

At Duke, about 700 students and employees are registered bike commuters. All Duke community members are welcome to join Bike to Work Week events.

"The benefits of bike commuting go far beyond the free daily parking passes and shower access offered by Duke - they include personal health and well-being, environmental stewardship, community engagement and a contribution to reducing Duke's overall carbon footprint," said Alison Carpenter, manager for Duke's transportation demand management program. "We're excited to participate in the Bike Month celebration and promote bike commuting as a great way to get to, from, and around campus." 

That's something that Jamieson-Drake hopes to show off every time he hops on his ELF bike, which start at $4,000 and is sold through Durham's Organic Transit. He noted that it's common for people to ask him questions about his vehicle of choice.

"I feel like every time someone sees me in it, I'm sowing a seed of a thought," he said. "It's something small that can add up."