Big Pine Key residents might take a double look when they see the latest transportation option tooling around the island.
On July 14, Kim Gabel, the horticulture agent for the Monroe County Cooperative Extension Service, purchased one of the first three ELF bicycles sold in Florida from the Durham, N.C., company Organic Transit.
The combination pedal-"solar assist" bicycle, which has an enclosed frame including a windshield, has just gone on the market. Gabel says the other two in Florida were bought in Gainesville and in Palm Coast, just north of Daytona Beach.
"I've been a recumbent triker for some five years now," Gabel said. "A lot of recumbents are two-wheel bikes. I know I like to ride bikes but I just can't stay on a two-wheel anymore because it's a pain on your butt, your legs."
Recumbent bicycles are low-sitting two-wheeled bikes that have a lounge-chair type of seat in the back and the pedals way up front. The ELF trike has two wheels up front, one in the back.
Gabel says the ELF can travel 20 mph and go 20 miles on a full charge. Organic Transit says on its website that "each OTV can go for 1,800 miles on the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline."
"It all depends on whether you're pedaling, not pedaling, the battery charge, if you have the lights on, the turn signal on," Gabel said.
The base price is $5,000. But this is no ordinary bicycle.
It has disc brakes, turn signals, a headlight, side mirrors, tail lights and, according to Organic Transit, "spacious interiors that keep you out of the elements and in view of other drivers."
The shell is made from polycarbonate that allows you to "carry several bags of groceries or other items in the ample cargo space."
Can you ride it on the road, especially on Big Pine, where the speed limit is 25 mph on much of the island? "It's considered a bike so you ride it on the bike path," Gabel said.