We northern New Englanders drive more per capita than most other Americans, and transportation is our biggest producer of greenhouse gases. So it’s great when people find ways of getting around the Upper Valley that don’t involve driving by themselves. Bikes, e-bikes, buses, carpools – what’s your transportation story? Here’s one:
Recently, we had an opportunity to talk with Chuck Fenton, a resident of Hartland and a recipient of our 2021 E-Bike Subsidy program, which is now closed. This interview has been edited for clarity.
As the recipient of the E-Bike Subsidy, what first interested you in an e-bike and how did you envision it fitting into your lifestyle?
I’m 78 years old, and the opportunities to ride a bike have declined as it is beyond my capacity. I’m actively working to give up my automobile. I don’t want to drive a car, I’ve driven a car all my life. I don’t even want to go on the highway. The plan is to have transportation that is not automotive.
What type of e-bike did you choose to purchase and why were you drawn to that model?
I live in Hartland which is about 15 miles from White River Junction. The nearest grocery store is in Windsor which is approximately 10 miles. I go there once a week for something as long as the weather is good and not pouring down rain.
I got the folding bike through Anna, which is great for tooling around in the urban area. It can fold into the back of any automobile and weighs about 50 lbs. Somebody can drop me off and I can get picked up. The major routes have no shoulder and there is no bike path from here to White River Junction. My choice with that bike was to be able to take that bike, ride around White River Junction and then get a ride back.
I was also able to get my hands on a mountain bike with the fat tires. I live out on a gravel dirt road. Depending on weather and winter conditions, these fat tire bikes are great because they can handle most situations and be taken off road on trails. Down in Brownsville there are Ascutney trails. They took what was a retired ski area and turned it into a hiking and biking area. To travel on that requires fat-tire bikes, so it offers a great opportunity for recreation. I enjoy being able to be off the pavement.
Are there any surprises that you did not anticipate that have come up with having/using your e-bike? These could be pros or cons.
I had no idea how comfortable and easy it would be to have an e-bike. It makes travel so easy. When you are in an automobile you are so totally removed from the natural world. Biking brings you so close to nature and closer to the world. It engenders being part of the living planet.
How has the e-bike changed your commute/transportation habits?
It really gets you out of your car. I went to visit friends, rode four miles to the post office and to church which was about 10 miles and I was totally comfortable. I am truly going to give up my car and donate it to public radio.
Do you have recommendations for individuals considering an e-bike purchase?
Go to the events sponsored by Vital Communities or the E-Bike Lending Library, and try out whatever bike you want to purchase to make sure it fits your lifestyle and body. Be sure you try out a number of different types of bikes. Find one that really fits what you want to do.
I do my best to show off the bike I got through Vital Communities, which works especially well for women or small framed people, 5’4 or shorter who would not be able to ride the big off road bike. If all my friends and acquaintances get e-bikes, I’ll never have a shortage of people to ride with.
This interview is part of our Getting Around transportation series, where we interview individuals who are seeking alternatives to driving by themselves. If you would like to share your story, please reach out by emailing Leona.