Equitable commutes by e-bike

It’s still early in the year, but here’s my first coup de coeur (crush) of 2022. Discovered through this article at The Verge, the Equitable Commute Project in NYC was created to help disadvantaged communities who face especially long commutes, which creates barriers to employment and harm overall well-being. They provide fleet discounts and innovative finance, outreach and education, and perhaps the most forward-looking part of the whole program: workforce development to “prepare New Yorkers who face barriers to employment for jobs in the micro-mobility industry, which is expected to grow to a $300-500 billion market by 2030.” And it’s not only happening in New York!

Across the country, community groups are soliciting e-bike companies for help competing for state money in the hopes of getting more people riding. Cities like Portland, Denver, and Buffalo are launching pilot projects that explore ways to subsidize e-bike purchases for low-income families or collect enough bikes together to launch mini-shared micromobility services. But the goal isn’t just to get more people on e-bikes; it’s also about reducing tailpipe emissions and saving the planet.

It’s been said in a number of places already over the last few years, but it’s worth repeating, e-bikes are not popular because people want less effort, they are popular because they make longer commutes possible in less time and with less effort. But even with the aid of the battery and motor, research shows that e-cyclists, on average, get more exercise.

The study then surveyed the thousands of participants to determine the amount of time they spent engaging in those activities each week and the distances they traveled.
As it turned out, electric bicycle riders ended up slightly edging out pedal bike cyclists in terms of total exercise each week. The study’s authors largely attribute this to the increased amount of time that e-bike riders spend on their bikes, compared to cyclists and the longer-distance trips taken by e-bike riders.

Getting back to the Equitable Commute Project, two last things to note. First, even though there are subsidies to buy e-bikes in many cities, the project wants to provide simpler financing that takes effect on purchase, not later on. And second, in an actually smart example of using data smartly in a city, they are working with NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering to monitor how the bikes are used

While the person is riding, the sensors collect data on speed, acceleration, distance, and trajectory, as well as the proximity of other cars and trucks on the road. The goal is to learn more about how people use e-bikes and produce studies into safety, gender equity in cycling, and urban planning.

The data is to be shared with “agencies, researchers, cyclists… this data can be useful to everyone.”