• Boosted by a surge of e-bike interest, a startup will offer Downtown area rentals within months
  • Our monthly roundup of mini-library finds
  • In an unusual move, city swoops in to save one house in Sawmill
Boosted by a surge of e-bike interest, a startup will offer Downtown area rentals within months
Susan Gautsch, seen here with her daughter and a family friend, is launching an e-bike business this spring.
The batteries are more powerful than ever, allowing some riders to coax 50 miles or more out of a charge. The battery packs themseves are also smaller, making for less-bulky frames that can more easily be maneuvered around, including onto buses or trains. Even the aesthetics of frame design are better than they used to be.

No wonder, then, that some analysts believe e-bikes are about to take over the transportation world, with heightened interest juiced further by the pandemic even leading to supply shortages.

And closer to home, renting one in greater Downtown is about to get a lot easier.

The company Free-to-Roam eBiking is planning to set up rental outlets across greater Downtown this spring, owner Susan Gautsch told DAN, calling such areas as EDo, the Downtown core, and Old Town "low-hanging fruit" for their proximity to tourists, hotels, and residents more accustomed to non-car transport than in other parts of town.

"It certainly can serve as an alternative - and much much more affordable - form of transportation," Gautsch said.

The bikes will likely be placed with existing businesses rather than at self-service docks. Free-to-Roam also plans to sell and maintain bikes and organize group rides.

The move comes as the Mid-Region Council of Governments continues to pursue the deployment of new rentable e-scooters, bikes, and e-bikes, an attempt to jumpstart Albuquerque's micromobility scene following last year's departure of Zagster and Spin, which operated bike and e-scooter programs.

E-bikes are something of a dark horse in the world of electric vehicles. They are dismissed as mere gadgets for lazy cheaters by some conventional cyclists (though fiercely defended by others as decent-enough exercise, particularly if driving is the alternative) and have generally not made the kind of global splash that the likes of Elon Musk have pulled off with electric cars.

Yet the potential to replace car trips seem to be real. Whether by adding some oomph to your own pedal power or working off of a throttle, e-bikes can propel a rider to 20 m.p.h. and beyond with about as much effort as you might exert on an indoor spin machine set to easy, effectively neutralizing hills, wind, and sweat.

"You can show up anywhere presentable," Gautsch said.

If electric cars ultimately replace gasoline-powered vehicles, they will require basically the same roads, bridges, and parking spaces. But shift a substantial number of trips to e-bikes and the politics of trails and on-street lanes - to say nothing of the frequently tense relationship between drivers and vastly-outnumbered riders - might also shift in unpredictable ways.

Already, the city is drafting up a policy for how to handle e-bikes, which are currently treated as non-motorized vehicles, planner Whitney Phelan told a recent meeting of the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee.

Gautsch, for her part, would take that as yet another sign that e-bikes are here to stay. 

"The way we go to work from this point forward may look a lot different than it did a year ago," she said.
Our monthly roundup of mini-library finds
2021's first neighborhood literary trek unearthed a good deal of escapist fiction yesterday - perhaps befitting the times - but we found a few non-fiction gems as well. Read on, and if you'd like to plan your own adventure, check out our map of all greater Downtown minis here.
16th and Orchard (Downtown Neighborhoods): Ever wish Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" had some sea monsters in it? You're in luck. Or if that's not to your taste, there's always "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" or the Stieg Larsson thriller "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo."
At Roma and 11th (Downtown Neighborhoods), an account of the Italian political juggernaut that is Silvio Berlusconi and "Trap Line," a Carl Hiaasen/Bill Montalbano novel.
At 10th and Park (Raynolds), a book for those who still have yet to get on the COVID-era baking train, "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "La Calle," an account of urban renewal in Tucson.
At Spur and Gabaldon (West Old Town), a history of how women fared in the Middle Ages, plus novels by Virginia Woolf and Thomas Hardy.
At Hollywood and Panmunjon (West Old Town), a Carlos Fuentes novel of war and cultural conflict, "The Old Gringo," José Saramago's novel about the adventures of a vital records clerk, and the Ray Bradbury classic "Fahrenheit 451."
If you get tired of reading and just want to dress up a bit, there are a couple of neckties at 15th and Granite (Downtown Neighborhoods). Or you could walk away with "Fine Just the Way It Is," a collection of Wyoming-based stories by Annie Proulx.
In an unusual move, city swoops in to save a house in Sawmill
Normally when someone walks away from their mortgage, city government doesn't take much of an interest. But just the opposite is happening with one home in the Sawmill Community Land Trust, an affordable housing development.

Why? It goes back to the legal structure that makes the houses in the area affordable in the first place. Homeowners, most of which must have a lower income to qualify, don't actually own the land their houses sit on - just the house. They can only sell a home back to the land trust or to another low-income family at set prices, keeping costs down for the long term.

A bank repossessing a house would threaten its "permanent affordability," and thus the whole idea behind the project. But the land trust, thanks to a recent period of financial tumult that even involved sanctions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, may well not have the money to take back the house. So the city stepped in last October, putting up $125,000 for the effort.

Rashan Jones, the land trust's board president, said he hopes the organization can take care of the buyback itself, but that the city money would act as a safety net if not. He also said that the move should be a one-time occurrence as the organization gets its financial house back in order.
Correction: One more month to comment on draft neighborhood association rules
Friday's story on new proposed rules for neighborhood associations carried the wrong deadline to comment. It is February 28, not January 28.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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