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Move On: West Van couple gears up for an 'e-bike' lifestyle

They moved from Upper Lonsdale to a spot near the Spirit Trail and now they take their 'e-bikes' for most of their trips to shop, work or play
West Vancouver’s Alexis Chicoine and Barry Chisholm say they are are all-in on electric rides, opting to take their “e-bikes” for most of their trips for shopping, work and play. | Heather Drugge

West Vancouver residents Alexis Chicoine and partner Barry Chisholm are converts to electric wheeled life.

First, Chicoine got an electric bike attachment for her wheelchair. To keep up, Chisholm bought an electric trike. Their pup, Kuma, enjoys riding in a carrier attached to Chicoine’s wheelchair. The cats, Sushi and Toby, while bike-curious, stay at home.

The entire family lives at the manufactured home park near Park Royal shopping center, right by the Spirit Trail. This location and their “e-bikes” have meant that they cycle to go shopping, attend meetings, visit friends and everything in between.

Before moving down the hill, Chicoine and Chisholm lived in Upper Lonsdale.

“I had to get in my van to do anything,” said Chicoine. “I wanted to just go out my door and go for a roll.”

So she bought a power assist front-drive, which attaches to her wheelchair in a couple of easy moves. The device lifts the wheelchair’s casters off the ground, creating a new e-bike that can go over terrain that is not easy to access with a manual wheelchair.

“Sometimes you just need that little extra power – especially on a steep hill in a manual chair. That’s when an electric bike attachment is a wonderful piece of equipment.”

But still, living above the highway didn’t offer a lot of nearby amenities or even safe infrastructure where she could use her new wheels. So, the couple relocated to their new home, which provides flatter terrain, better bike paths, stores and services within blocks.

One of the first things they did after Chisholm got his trike was go shopping at the Save-On-Foods on Marine Drive.

“I didn’t like carrying a big load on the back of my original e-bike,” said Chisholm. “The trike means I can carry a lot without being off balance or swinging my leg over a milk carton full of groceries.”

A mortgage broker, Chisholm hasn’t been to his office for more than two years and meets with clients at coffee shops he can walk or ride to.

“I think it has become realistic for people to consider getting an e-bike and using that for six months of the year,” says Chisholm. “You could not insure your car; save that money and buy an e-bike.”

Now that Barry and Alexis are regular rollers, they’ve noted some room for improvement on the Spirit Trail, which they love and use all the time. “There is a balance we need to strike when using shared pathways,” said Chicoine. “Now that so many people use the Spirit Trail, safety and speed have become a big issue. Separating the path for pedestrians from people on rolling devices would be ideal. Also, people with visual disabilities, who use a white cane, can’t navigate the path independently without tactile strips or hard curbs to guide them, so it’s not inclusive.”

Chicoine knows her stuff on this count. She’s chair of the North Shore-wide Advisory Committee on Disability Issues and works as a consultant, helping companies create inclusive workplaces.

“After COVID showed everyone that working from home was possible, I am only at the office one day a week, so I drive less and less,” said Chicoine. “We want to sell one of our vehicles because we don’t use both.”

Chisholm summarizes their experience so far: “We love this lifestyle and recommend it to anyone looking to add e-biking for transportation. Just do it.”

Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for more than 20 years. She’s got an e-bike now, and maybe a jetpack next. [email protected]