It's a bike! It's a car! It's an ... ELF bike?
ELF bike: A 'green' commuting option, the ELF bike looks like Fred Flintstone's footmobile, only with solar panels and a futuristic shape.
Mark Stewart turns quite a few heads as he zips through the streets on his neon green ELF bike. With each pedal, his feet take turns sticking out from the bottom while a gentle motor hums in the background.Skip to next paragraph
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What he's driving looks like a cross between a bicycle and a car, the closest thing yet to Fred Flintstone's footmobile, only with solar panels and a futuristic shape.
It's a "green" option for today's commuters.
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Stewart, a 65-year-old family therapist and school psychologist from Cambridge, Mass., took the summer off in order to drive his new ELF bike more than 1,200 miles on trails and roads using the East Coast Greenway, a bike and pedestrian trail that runs from Canada to Key West.
He began his journey by flying down to Durham, N.C., on July 15, and estimates that the entire trip will take about a month. He covered the first leg, from Durham, N.C. to Reston, Va., over roughly five days, 60 miles at a time.
The ELF can go up to 30 mph, combining pedal and electric power, and reach 20 mph on electric power alone.
Needless to say, he's getting lots of questions along the way.
"It reminds me of when I saw a Smart car the first time," said Joanne Bury as she emerged from her Reston condominium building to take a look at the vehicle. "This is incredible. What is it?"
Such attention, Stewart says, is par for the course.
"I don't mind though. I mean, I like that people want to talk about it," he said.
The ELF, or "Organic Transit Vehicle," can go for 1,800 miles on the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline. It does not require the insurance, repair, and car maintenance costs of the average vehicle. Besides the cost of the occasional new tire, the ELF runs completely off what it costs to charge its battery.
Stewart bought the ELF from Durham-based Organic Transit, which sells them for a base price of $5,000. He said he wanted to avoid the almost $1,000 delivery charge, so he decided to fly down to pick up the bike in person and learn how to operate it before taking the long trip back home.
"I spent three days in the shop hanging with the guys there and learning the vehicle," Stewart said. "This is just an unsupported solo trip up here in a vehicle that nobody else really knows."