Bike commuting is a way to live a healthy, environmentally friendly lifestyle, but some people don’t because of Bellingham’s dreaded hills.
Sustainable Transportation Program Assistant Jillian Trinkaus is trying to combat that problem. She helps run Western’s Viking eBike program. E-bikes have a motor and battery built into them which assists riders, Trinkaus said.
“They have been used for people who are recovering from knee surgery because they can lightly pedal and the bike will do most of the work. As they heal, they can step down the amount of help they are getting.”
Research Analyst Elizabeth Hartsoch originally brought the idea of e-bikes to Western and started up the program. Hartsoch thought of the idea while she was riding up a hill and realized an electric assist would solve the problems of a regular bike, like fitness barriers, sweating in nice clothes and having things to carry.
“I’ve been bike commuting for close to 20 years. People would always say to me ‘I would love to ride, but the hill,’” Hartsoch said.
There are two ways students can use the bikes. If they are interested in using it for a whole quarter students must fill out a survey on the project’s website. They also provide short-term loans, which range from one hour to six days. Students must attend a one-time orientation before checking out a bike. They can sign up on the website.
The bikes can be used by those with injuries, as long as they are able to pedal. The motor assists when you don’t quite have the ability to, Trinkaus said.
“They have been used for people who are recovering from knee surgery because they can lightly pedal and the bike will do most of the work. As they heal, they can step down the amount of help they are getting,” Trinkaus said.
Hartsoch said electric bikes could solve problems surrounding health, environmental impact, congestion, parking and hazard of vehicles, Hartsoch said.
Western Sustainability Bike Educator Josh Kirsh leads e-bike orientations and helps students become comfortable with riding.
Hartsoch purchased a personal electric bike six months ago and said it’s a transformative investment.
Students are developing lifelong habits. It is important to provide students with transportation options other than commuting in a single occupancy vehicle, Hurtsoch said.
Over the last year or two, e-bike technology has only improved and the cost is become more affordable for far more people, Hartsoch said.
“You can’t really know what it’s like unless you try it,” Hartsoch said.