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Thread: ELF pedal electric car on W&OD

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  1. #1
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    Default ELF pedal electric car on W&OD

    What do you think of the ELF pedal powered electric car that is always out on the W&OD between Vienna and Reston? I don't like seeing it out there because it's too big, blocks visibility, and the guy drives it like a maniac. I like the idea of the vehicle, but just don't think it should be on multi-use trails that specifically prohibit motorized vehicles. It's too bad there's no real home for it, though, because I wouldn't feel comfortable in one on the road, either.

    Call me a hypocrite, but I have no problem with electric assist bicycles as long as they stick to normal cycling speeds. I guess my big problem with the ELF is the size.

  2. #2
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    No real opinion other than it looks cool as sh!t.


  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Subby View Post
    No real opinion other than it looks cool as sh!t.

    Oddly, I think I'd hate to encounter an ELF on the trail even more than the jackass riding his gas powered scooter I encountered under 395 on 4MRT a few weeks ago.

  4. #4
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    I've seen plenty of recumbent trikes that take up almost as much space on the MUPs...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by run/bike View Post
    I've seen plenty of recumbent trikes that take up almost as much space on the MUPs...
    Point me at a recumbent trike that is anywhere close to the dimensions of an ELF. Their website lists the footprint as 4'x9'. A brief look at trikes from popular mfgs like Catrike or ICE show their larger road trikes as about 2'-8"x6' or so, which is substantially smaller. And thats ignoring that a recumbent trike is all of 2.5-3' high, which is a height that is easy to see over for most people, whereas the ELF is 5'-1", which is only 5" shorter than a Ford Escape SUV.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jabberwocky View Post
    Point me at a recumbent trike that is anywhere close to the dimensions of an ELF. Their website lists the footprint as 4'x9'. A brief look at trikes from popular mfgs like Catrike or ICE show their larger road trikes as about 2'-8"x6' or so, which is substantially smaller. And thats ignoring that a recumbent trike is all of 2.5-3' high, which is a height that is easy to see over for most people, whereas the ELF is 5'-1", which is only 5" shorter than a Ford Escape SUV.
    As another point of comparison, my Bakfiets is close to that long, but only half as wide.

  7. #7
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    It is cool, but (my opinion) it's just too wide for many of our trails, let alone a sidewalk. And perhaps too fast and powerful to play safely with bikes on those trails.

  8. #8
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    Food for thought from the ELF owner's website: http://www.solarbikecar.com/SolarBikeCar.aspx#tab-31

    Karl Mohle, Park Manager of the W&OD Railroad Regional Park sent this via email:

    "Upon reviewing the information on the Internet the ELF has an electric motor on it. As such motorized vehicles are currently not permitted on the trail. Furthermore the width of the ELF creates a safety hazard on the trail for users in the opposite lane. Here is a copy of the guidelines from our friends group website: www.wodfriends.org/accessibility/safety/
    He provides a rebuttal directly underneath this, but according to his own website, the ELF is not allowed on the trail although the law might be on his side.

    Another bit of food for thought: he has modified the ELF to go faster (this information is on that page).

    To be honest, I wasn't sure at first whether the ELF electric bicycle should be allowed on trails until I started researching the topic and running through this list in my head:

    Would you be okay with seeing the ELF electric bicycle in these locations?
    • W&OD Trail - kinda
    • Key Bridge sidewalk - no
    • 14th St Bridge path - kinda
    • Mount Vernon Trail - not really
    • Anacostia River Tributary Trail System - not really
    • Penn Ave protected bike lane - yes
    • 1st St NE protected bike lane - yes
    • Rock Creek Trail - no
    • C&O Canal Towpath - kinda
    • average suburban sidewalk - no
    • average city sidewalk - no


    After running down the list, my answers to places that ELF electric bicycles should be allowed: no on sidewalks, no on trails, and yes in bike lanes.

  9. #9
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    Default Share the path

    A discussion of how to separate different modes of transportation is a worthwhile one. There are several inaccuracies in this thread that I'd like to correct so the discussion is based on facts.

    The ELF is designed to operate at speeds under 20mph on the level without pedal power. It can exceed that speed with rigorous pedaling downhill but cannot exceed 25 with any motor power because as the motor exceeds 25mph it switches from producing power to acting as a brake. I have tweaked the gearing slightly to increase my ability to add more pedal power which increases the top cruising speed without changing the vehicle's legal definition of an electric-assist bicycle. The law limits the performance of an electric assist bicycle without any pedal input but is silent regarding pedal input because then it would be limiting regular bicycle speeds too.

    I have a cycle analyst and a smart-phone app which I use for navigation. When stopped I review information on both screens. It is physically impossible to text and cycle, however, since applying power requires at least the right hand to be on the handlebars. The report of an ELF driver texting and driving is very likely fiction to support a meme.

    Should there be width limits is a good topic to discuss. The elf fits one lane of the trail nicely for the section I use but I have learned I need to exercise caution around these activities:

    1) Cyclists who pass traffic going in both directions by slicing down the yellow line. When I see cyclists approaching who might be tempted to pass I pull over so that one wheel is on the adjacent unpaved path to provide half of my lane for aggressive passing.
    2) Cyclists who bunch up into a group that is two or three across and meandering slowly across both lanes.
    3) Pedestrians who walk three abreast with dogs and take up both lanes.
    4) Inline skaters who go really fast down the center line.
    5) Race walkers who walk down the center of the trail with arms flailing back and forth.
    6) Cyclists who draft inches from my rear tire for miles and won't pass when given the opportunity. Tailgating to reduce wind resistance and then complaining that one can't see around an ELF is bogus.

    I've commuted 2500 miles over the past 6 months without incident or accident and want to continue to develop habits that preserve that safety record. If you have suggestions I'll listen. I note that the trail is deserted when I bike on days that are cold or rainy so I am adding usage to the trail when others can't because of weather. Even on perfect weather days the trail is far from capacity in the Vienna to Reston section.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolarBikeCar View Post
    Should there be width limits is a good topic to discuss. The elf fits one lane of the trail nicely for the section I use but I have learned I need to exercise caution around these activities:

    1) Cyclists who pass traffic going in both directions by slicing down the yellow line. When I see cyclists approaching who might be tempted to pass I pull over so that one wheel is on the adjacent unpaved path to provide half of my lane for aggressive passing.
    2) Cyclists who bunch up into a group that is two or three across and meandering slowly across both lanes.
    3) Pedestrians who walk three abreast with dogs and take up both lanes.
    4) Inline skaters who go really fast down the center line.
    5) Race walkers who walk down the center of the trail with arms flailing back and forth.
    6) Cyclists who draft inches from my rear tire for miles and won't pass when given the opportunity. Tailgating to reduce wind resistance and then complaining that one can't see around an ELF is bogus.
    So basically anytime you're on the trail, right?

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