A Month Without a Car

To explore the benefits of an electronic bike, the City’s Energy and Sustainability Assistant, Julia Forberg, was given the chance to use an e-bike for a whole month. “When I started my position with the City, I realized that the commute to City Hall each day would be a lot simpler on a bike. I wouldn’t have to find and pay for parking, and I live about a mile away so I would be cutting out unnecessary car travel,” Julia says. When offered the chance to use an e-bike for a month, she quickly accepted.


Julia considers herself to be an average biker (“I own an old, purple, one-speed vintage-style bike that must be walked up the hills of Duluth”), so she used the e-bike as a supplement to her car. Julia tried to bike most places, but had to use her car for grocery shopping, if the weather looked questionable, or if she had to go long distances. In total, Julia traveled just under 100 miles on the e-bike over the month!

Some notable benefits of using the e-bike included avoiding parking fees and saving money on gas. Julia had no problem finding bike racks in front of most businesses and places around town. To this point, she says “No matter my destination I knew I would be able to safely lock up my bike for the day. Over the course of the month, I was going through gas at a remarkably slower rate and couldn’t even remember the last time I had filled the tank.”

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Biking to and from work also allowed Julia to take in the beauty of Duluth on a daily basis. “Oftentimes I would take the scenic route and bike along the lakewalk in the mornings. It was a great chance to slow down and have a moment of peace before the workday,” she says. There was also the added benefit of getting some daily exercise. The e-bike has different levels of power that you can adjust to depending on how much effort you want to exert. “Some days, I would turn the electronic function off, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t set it to the highest electronic power while climbing a steep hill.”

One thing Julia hopes to see more of in the future is increased bike lanes throughout the city. While some areas of the city have very clear and accessible bike lanes, such as the Lincoln Park craft district, Julia found it difficult to navigate the busy downtown streets on the bike. “At times, it felt like I was in the way of drivers even when I was staying in the correct lane; some drivers even seemed annoyed at my presence. But, I also didn’t want to inconvenience pedestrians on the sidewalks by riding there.”

Overall, the biggest benefit of using the e-bike was that it was very fun to use. Julia thinks that having the option of the e-bike available made her want to bike more often, and encouraged her to go on bike rides together with friends. “Some of my favorite rides included biking to Glensheen’s Wednesday night concerts, to Duluth’s Pride Fest, and to the Water is Life Stop Line 3 concert at Bayfront” says Julia.

Julia challenges anyone with a bike to gear up for next spring and see if you can use it as your main form of transportation for a month; you may find yourself seeing the same benefits! 

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