SANDAG to study e-bike use

SANDAG is introducing an e-bike pilot progrm to learn how the vehicles could be integrated into people’s travel habits.

A two-year pilot program by the San Diego Association of Governments is seeking participants in San Diego County to help regional planners better understand the impact e-bikes could have on quality of life.

Administered by SANDAG partner, Pedal Ahead, the pilot program will enable participants to work toward owning an e-bike by riding a minimum number of miles per month over two years, recording trips, and sharing regular feedback about their experiences. The pilot aligns with SANDAG’s efforts to help people reduce car rides for neighborhood trips, decrease carbon emissions, and better connect to regional transit options. The pilot is one of SANDAG’s Sustainable Transportation Services funded by the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program.

SANDAG Senior Regional Planner Marisa Mangan said this is a first-time pilot, giving SANDAG the opportunity to learn how e-bikes enhance people’s lives and change how they get around in their communities. SANDAG learned from its last Regional Transportation plan that nearly half of trips taken by people everyday is under three miles, she said.

“There is a real opportunity to try and influence how people travel. Especially if they are trying to reduce car use, if they are transit dependent at the moment, this can add to their options of getting from point A to point B, and where to connect from regional transit services,” she said.

Mangan said this trend of short car trips is a “typical scenario of a post-COVID world” as many are still working from home, taking trips to the store, to parks, schools, which may be nearby.

“E-bikes are an opportunity to get to those places with an electric charge, or a boost, that is faster, less effort than a regular bike, but is still allowing you to get some exercise, to have a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “We have hills in San Diego, so that assist option on the bikes help to make that experience a little easier.”

SANDAG is recruiting up to 125 residents of San Diego County, Mangan said, and once accepted into the program, they are “on boarded” and trained in e-bike use, safety training, and supports regarding the responsible use of e-bikes.

“Perhaps they have not been on a bicycle in a very long time. We may get retirees for example, or folks who have not been riding a bike since they have had families,” she said.

“This can get them reoriented on skills being on two wheels again, and then getting used to the boost they get with an e-bike while being taught the rules of the road, knowing how to navigate. And getting familiar with the newer protected bike lanes are in their community. SANDAG plays a role in designing and building many of those, so we are promoting and guiding our participants in using both on, and off street bike facilities which are safer than some of the dangerous arterials we may drive on every day.”

Mangan said for this project these are not throttle e-bikes, instead they are electric assist bikes that require you to pedal while you are moving, with the electric feature optional to use. They go a maximum of 20 mph.

“I have that same kind of bike that I own myself and use it all the time,” she said. “Similar to a regular non-electric bike because they are electric, they have the added benefit of having integrated front and rear lights that turn on when you turn the bike on. That helps with visibility. Having that front light on a bike is mandated by the California Vehicle Code. We are providing participants with safety gear and vests, in addition to the helmet. And that is part of the curriculum so to speak.”

SANDAG and Pedal Ahead will provide ongoing support to users through personalized onboarding, e-bike education, safety training, e-bike tune-ups, and routine maintenance support. After successful completion of the pilot, participants will be offered ownership of the e-bike.

Some eligibility requirements include:
•A commitment to using the e-bike for a minimum of 100 miles per month.
• Applicants must be 18 years or older and a resident of San Diego County.
• Priority given to lower income individuals (annual income of $50,000 or below).

To learn more, visit SANDAG E-Bike Incentive Pilot Program.