Boxy Bikes creates and sells electric bikes in Ithaca. A Q&A with owner Laurence Clarkberg.
What do you do?
We combine any bike with an electric motor and a battery and assemble them into an electric bike that’s capable of climbing up Ithaca’s hills.
Who is this good for?
We have an odd collection of customers. Some people can’t get a license for various personal reasons, then we have some people who’s spouse is a bicyclist and they want to be able to keep up with their spouse on bike rides. There’s the greenies, the tree huggers, and I throw myself in that… I’m not saying that disparagingly. It’s so obvious that global warming is caused by humans, and one of the main activities that humans do is drive, and therefore, shouldn’t we stop driving? I came to this conclusion a few years ago and I was like “Hey everybody look, we should stop driving right?” And all my friends and my wife were like, “What? You’re crazy, don’t say that out loud.” So I’d say it’s for all the people who want to go car-free.
What change are you trying to make?
I hate cars. It’s no secret. I’m trying to reduce the number of cars on the road. Partly because of global warming, but this goes back to when I was a teenager and a physics student, and I just felt that it’s so stupid to carry around thousands of pounds of metal bulk wherever you go.
How did you get here?
I’ve always been a bicyclist, then I discovered the electric motor side of it made it really possible for me to carry my kids to school. I was able to carry them to daycare in a trailer without an electric motor. Then they kept getting older and heavier… at some point, I saw a picture in Make Magazine of an extra-long bike with a big red motor in the middle. And I knew that it was for me. So I ordered one and put it together and I was able to carry my daughter to her riding lessons in Newfield on my bike. And after a couple years of wondering “Why is noone else using this?”, I thought “Oh! I’m supposed to help people use this!”
How does this impact Ithaca?
Cities in general are learning that the more people bike, it saves them thousands of dollars a year. So, most basically, it saves money for the city and for people. The money aspect I think is the most appealing. People like to talk about global warming but what actually motivates them is the money side of it.
What struggles have you encountered?
…the stress of starting a business!
What inspires you?
There’s this thing everyone gets the first time they ride called an e-bike grin. That’s the industry-wide term now, and it’s that inevitable smile. Even the most hardened people get it. Maybe just a little smile, but it’s there. So it’s so great to sell a product that makes people smile like 100% of the time.
How can we participate?
Try one, and don’t just let words motivate you. I find people can talk about electric bikes all day and then they actually try one and they’re like “ohhh I see!” So just try one. It just takes a couple minutes and it’s fun!
Visit Boxy Bikes in Press Bay Alley at 118 West Green Street, or at boxybikes.com.7
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