Can Do Colorado brings eBikes to low income Coloradans
At Bicycle Colorado, we believe in the power of eBikes.
We know that eBikes open bicycling to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to ride, and we know that eBike adopters generally use them to travel greater distances than they otherwise would on a bicycle. We also know that the cost of an eBike can be a barrier to use, which is just part of why we were thrilled to partner with the Colorado Energy Office in 2020 on the first iteration of the Can Do Colorado eBike Program.
The Program was built to support low income essential workers and demonstrate that eBikes are a safe, healthy and convenient way to take essential trips around town. The Fall 2020 Mini Pilot, which Bicycle Colorado was tasked with creating and overseeing, provided 13 Coloradans with an eBike and equipment needed to ensure safe, year-round riding at no cost.
The Mini Pilot was developed over the course of two months, with Bicycle Colorado hired for program development in July 2020 and bikes distributed in late September. Other partners in the program included:
- Northeast Transportation Connections (NETC), a Denver Transportation Management Agency responsible for engaging potential program applicants and supporting participants
- SloHi Bike Company, responsible for recommending, purchasing, building and distributing bikes to participants
- Monica Fitzgerald, a Masters of Public Health researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
- and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), which developed the CanBikeCO app through which participants could log their trips.
All funding for the program was provided by the Colorado Energy Office.
Individual Ownership Model
The Fall 2020 Mini Pilot took the form of an individual ownership model. Participants were given a Momentum LaFree E+ eBike, plus the following essentials at no cost to them:
- Durable lock
- Front and rear light
- Repair kit, multitool, and portable tire pump
- Floor pump
- Bike bag that sits on the rear rack
- Thorn proof and spare tubes
- Cold weather Bar Mitts
- Free tune up at SloHi Bikes
Individual bike ownership for the Fall Mini Pilot:
- provided riders with a sense of ownership of their eBikes and full autonomy during their travel
- supported an efficient rollout within months of program announcement
- gave participants the ability to use the bike for personal and work trips
- gave administrators the ability to better track behavior change over time
Importantly, individual ownership also removed as many barriers for participation as possible on the part of approved applicants. Providing bikes for individual ownership made it so that participants could go about their daily lives without interruptions, more easily integrating eBikes into their regular routines.
Data collection and feedback
Participants were given access to the CanBikeCO app developed by NREL to gather data on trips taken both with and without eBikes after distribution. They were also asked to send in weekly surveys so we could learn more about what encouraged them to ride and what barriers they experienced to riding their bikes.
I wasn’t doing too much physical activity [before getting my eBike]. And you know, my weight was up and I wasn’t eating right. And the bike … makes me want to jump on there just because of the fact that it’s fun. And I enjoy riding.
Research shows that eBikes are an efficient, cost-effective and fun way to travel that can change transportation habits, and our participants were no exception. While we weren’t necessarily surprised by the positive feedback we received from participants, we were pleased to see that they were using their eBikes to shift their transportation habits.
Interviews with participants conducted by Monica Fitzgerald showed, among other findings, that:
- All participants reported using their eBike at least three times per week, but many ride their eBike every day.
- Participants ride their eBikes to work, the gym, medical appointments, the grocery store, to visit family or friends, and for recreation around their neighborhood or on local bike paths.
- Most participants stated that eBiking saves them time, money, and is more enjoyable than public transportation, driving or riding a non-electric bicycle.
- Participants described saving a significant amount of money on transportation costs with their eBike, including gas money and RTD fares.
- Participants also described some relief about having a free means of transportation that will always be available to them.
Since I got the eBike and then joined this program, and I’m no longer using a car … I only want to take a ride or a walk on foot. It’s changed me a lot.
- Some participants stated they hope to get rid of their car, or previously planned to get a car, but don’t need to, now that they own an eBike.
- Several participants described riding their eBike as “meditative,” and a good way to clear their head throughout the day.
I’m getting to places faster … [I’ve] got the full energy to do my work after I get there, to work and back home.
Now that the Fall 2020 Mini Pilot of the Can Do Colorado eBike Program is complete, the Colorado Energy Office has released a Request for Applications for the Spring Pilot of the program. Bicycle Colorado will be providing technical assistance and support to applicants asked to submit a full proposal. We’re excited to remain involved in this next phase of the program, and to see the state showing that “electric vehicles” means more than just cars by supporting low-income, essential worker Coloradans with the Can Do Colorado eBike program.
The eBike program is part of the Can Do Colorado Community Challenge, through which Colorado’s state agencies, nonprofits, and other partners are offering a variety of resources to local communities and their respective businesses to help safely reopen the economy and point the state towards a healthier and more sustainable future.