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Grant funds new electric bicycles

IK Ebike online
Dannielle Becker, a Western junior and publicity center distributor, rides the new electronic tricycle during a training session on Monday, Jan. 11. The tricycle will be used to deliver publications around campus starting this quarter. // Photo by Ian Koppe

Western has devised a way for bike riders to save their breath when pedaling up to north campus.

In spring quarter, one or two commuters, preferably students, can check out an electric-assist bicycle, or “e-bike,” for a demonstration period.

There is another application to the project that is already being put to use. The Associated Student publicity center has recently acquired an electric cargo tricycle to replace their gas-powered vehicles for their campus deliveries.

E-bikes are a part of the Sustainability Action Fund large grant project, said Rachael Morris, Western’s sustainable transportation program assistant.

The Viking e-bike demonstration program will be accepting applications for trial runs of the bicycles until the end of January. Students or faculty members interested in checking out an e-bike should contact Morris at (360) 650-7245.

According to an email from Morris, the e-bikes provided will be Solexity brand.

Riders will also report on their experiences with the bikes, take surveys and disclose any problems they may have. Western Sustainability anticipates students and faculty alike will be able to lease the e-bikes by spring quarter, according to its survey.

Beth Hartsoch is a research analyst for the Western office of survey research. She came up with the idea for the program during conversations about her daily bike commute to campus.

“I worked here eight years, so I’ve commuted on my bicycle the whole time.,” she said. “I talk with a lot of people who, when they learn that I ride my bike here, say, ‘Oh, I would love to ride, but the hill.’”

Hartsoch is referring to the hill on High Street and Billy Frank Jr. Street.

“I thought, ‘Gosh, an electric bike would probably solve that problem for a lot of people,’” Hartsoch said. “They wouldn’t be sweaty and there’s just not that big barrier of ‘Am I fit enough? Do I really want to put up that big of an effort in the morning?’”

Alec Darr, an industrial technology — vehicle design student and a member of the project, put his engineering knowledge to use as he researched the types of e-bikes that would best fit the program’s needs.

“It takes people out of their cars and it puts you on the road,” Darr said. “It makes sure you are exercising a bit because you do have to pedal.”

Morris also hopes for the grant to eventually provide e-bike leasings for off-campus offices who need to come to the university for meetings and work assignments.

“The fact that we can even get a project like this going is pretty incredible,” Morris said. “This project specifically is in line with Western’s goals for reducing our carbon footprint on campus. If we’re able to get more people making these trips by bike instead of by car, that’s always a huge help for the environment.”

For more information, visit the program’s Facebook page and blog.

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