Jack Todd

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. 

Read the Final Report

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:

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: 

  • Helmet
  • 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

I like it because it frees my mind up away from the world for just a moment.

Can Do Colorado eBike Program Participant

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.

Can Do Colorado eBike Program Participant

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.

Can Do Colorado eBike Program Participant

  • 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.

Can Do Colorado eBike Program Participant

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.

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Jack Todd

About the Author: Jack Todd

Born and raised in Denver, Jack grew up riding his bike in the Queen City, and has been addicted to life on two wheels ever since. Jack has lived in Seattle and Copenhagen, Denmark, where he experienced first-hand what a difference extensive people-oriented infrastructure can make! As Director of Communications and Policy, Jack works every day to connect Bicycle Colorado staff, advocates around the state, and local and state decision makers to advance bicycling in Colorado.

COMMENTS (9)

Florian - Reply

Love it! Small pilot that hopefully grows! Would love to see more grass roots movements involved but so far it seems as if all stakeholders learned a ton! Well done!! (Nice article as well 🙂

Jason Claypool - Reply

Great article. How do I get involved or apply for this program? I’m a health care worker just making ends meet, and I need to get back on a bike to get myself healthy again, cut down on about 30+ miles of solo car trips per week to work, and to make this world a better place.

    Aishwarya Krishnamoorthy - Reply

    Hi Jason! Unlike the first pilot round where individuals were given bikes, in the second round, individuals can’t apply for a free e-bike. Instead, organizations had to submit concepts to manage programs giving eBikes to essential workers. We’re looking forward to finding out what the next steps will be.

Mitch Davis - Reply

Wow I would really love one of th

Eric - Reply

I live in Austin Tx and I heard about your ebike program for low income folks in Colorado

Steven a Seidner - Reply

How can I get one?

    Jack Todd - Reply

    Hi Steven,

    The Fall Pilot has come to a close, but organizations planning to distribute bicycles this Spring will be named soon, so stay tuned to news from the Colorado Energy Office!

    Jack

      J. Craig Hanzelka - Reply

      What an amazing article and project! Many of us out here would love to get involved but cannot afford it. I for one would love to figure out how I could volunteer/work to earn one of these ebikes. Currently, I have 2 things going against me: my 6 foot 7 inch height, and money in my wallet in which to afford a luxury such as this. I have scoured the internet for ANYTHING resembling an affordable electric bike. Seems Covid only Increased ebike sales across the world, thus making them further from many peoples reach. If I could become the “voice” of your organization, perhaps others would become more aware of the many less fortunate souls out there needing assistance.

Morris Chase - Reply

I would like to participate in the Spring ebike program.

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