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Biking for God’s creation

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Ed Myers, a Sterling resident and a parishioner of Christ the Redeemer Church, has a new, environmentally friendly vehicle he uses to get to work.

In May, Myers purchased an ELF FR, a low-speed electric bicycle that seats two people and has a battery-powered motor, which can be charged by a solar panel or an electrical outlet.

The ELF is an American-made combination between a bike and a car. Manufactured by Organic Transit, a Durham, N.C.-based company, the ELF comes in three different models and all include: an enclosed cab, three wheels, pedals, headlights, brake lights, a 100-watt solar panel and a rechargeable battery.

While made for short-distance commuting, Myers took a chance on this little bug-like vehicle. After making some modifications, Myers now commutes 17 miles from Sterling to Tysons Corner, twice a day, three times each week.

"I (was) spending 35 minutes exercising on the treadmill and then spending 40 minutes in the car to get to work, and if I could somehow combine these two activities, I thought, hey that'd be pretty cool," Myers said.

Though Myers says he's not a tree-hugger, he does realize the good in driving his ELF to and from work. By combining his weekly exercise with his transportation, purchasing the ELF seemed like a good investment, and Myers has biked 900 miles since.

Exercise and transportation were not the only two objectives in Myers' decision to test out this new vehicle. God played a role too.

"We love and worship God by respecting His creation. We can't honor God while polluting this beautiful world and leaving the consequences for the next generation, especially since the harm falls mainly on the poor and vulnerable," he said.

The ELF was not just a new toy for Myers, an engineer, to play with, but also a creative solution and a way to channel his faith.

"God is creative and through His Spirit helps us creatively solve problems within our society," Myers said.

Channeling his engineering side, Myers made modifications to the vehicle to better suit his needs. There is a federal 20 mph speed limit restriction on electric-assisted vehicles, but in Virginia it's 25 mph, so Myers replaced the ELF's crank with a two-speed crank to get a better range of speed.

Myers also communicates with the manufacturer about problems with the vehicle and works to find solutions. He said he's happy to help debug the vehicle and get it ready for larger markets outside the United States.

Mechanical problems are not the only issues that Myers has faced since buying the ELF. He had to map out a backroads route to work. His research led him to the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park's (W&OD) bike path. But recently, the W&OD told Myers he is no longer allowed on the bike path because his vehicle is not a bicycle, though under federal law it is classified as a bike.

Since electric-assisted bicycles are fairly new to the market, the laws are constantly changing. The decision is pending, Myers said, after sending the W&OD his personal analysis of the positive aspects of using an electric-assisted vehicle on a bike path. He has yet to receive a response if he will be allowed back on the bike paths.

"I get a lot of thumbs-up from people while driving down the bike path and a lot of people get excited - they go 'hey that's a great idea,' but there are a few people who say 'wait, the bike path is ours and we don't want to share it with vehicles like that,'" Myers said. "Imagine if our top transportation issue was too many bicyclists."

Although the ELF is expensive, costing about $6,000 to $8,000, it provides another alternative for people who don't have a car or a license.

A quiet man, Myers does not use his ELF for attention and head-turning. For him it's about serving God and protecting His creation.

Raynor can be reached at lraynor@catholicherald.com

Find out more

To learn more about Myers' solar bike car visit solarbikecar.com.

To learn more about Organic Transit and the ELF vehicles visit organictransit.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015