By Marlon Madden
Businessman Paul Richings is encouraging more Barbadians to make the shift from driving cars to riding e-bikes.
Earlier this week, Richings launched his new company Cooperative Commuters, with the plan of sourcing electric bicycles for Barbadians through a partnership with Republic Bank.
He explained that the business model would see individuals desirous of getting the e-bike placing an order with the company. Those who are unable to afford it will be able to get the financing from the financial institution.
During an interview with Barbados TODAY on Friday, Richings said he believed “electric bikes are the only solution right now” in an era of volatile oil prices, traffic congestion and given that countries around the world are expected to encourage greater use of clean energy vehicles in the coming years.
The businessman said he did not want Barbados to be left behind, as he predicted that oil prices could soon make it difficult for people to drive their gas and diesel-powered transportation.
“It is twice what it was two or three years ago to put gas in now,” he said. “This is what people have to accept. They are phasing out gas-powered vehicles around the world over the next ten years . . . and electric bikes are that perfect answer,” he said.
“Public transport will become more prominent in Barbados. We will refine that but in the interim, while that investment is taking place I think we can help put a dent in that and not have to spend so much [on fuel] and give everybody the opportunity to find cheaper transport,” he said.
Richings is aiming to import 150 e-bikes by June of this year in the first instance and as the interest grows, increase imports. He said that the response has been very encouraging so far.
“There is one model in particular that we can deliver for $1,000 cheaper than what it is provided for in Germany. The bikes are quality,” he said.
Pointing out that there was an electric bicycle for just about anyone, he added that a fully-charged e-bike battery could last up to four hours before requiring another charge.
Richings welcomed the government’s decision to waive taxes on electric vehicles, saying it would be good to extend it to e-bikes as well, though he acknowledged that the price of this mode of transport was a lot more affordable.
He also recommended that the Government establish bicycle lanes and put up more traffic signs to ensure the safety of bicyclists and encourage greater use of this mode of transportation.
“It is a continuity that we have to understand has to happen and right now we are sitting in gas-powered cars and we are having foreign exchange going up in smoke,” he said.
He acknowledged that it could take a lot of work convincing Barbadians to park their cars and ride a bicycle instead, but said he was hoping the benefits would serve as a major driver towards this shift taking place.
“The benefit with electric bikes is that you can ride fast enough to keep up with traffic,” he said, noting that the bikes can go up to 60 miles per hour.
“It will take confidence for people to get on that bike but the thing about e-bikes is that they are a little bit bigger than a normal bicycle, but it is the speed that will make sure that [other motorists] respect you a little bit more.
The England-born businessman, who has been in the restaurant business for many years, said he believed Cooperative Commuters can play a significant role in helping Barbados achieve its goal of 100 per cent reliance on clean energy by 2030.
“I know Bajans love their cars, but the environment is changing around the world. Change is coming so get on board now so that you are not caught with your pants down later,” he added.
“When people understand this is fun and it is saving people money in their pockets I think it will start to snowball. Barbados has so much potential and an opportunity here to show the rest of the world how it is done . . . We can be a carbon neutral country. We can do this.”