This year, MassBike began our 2-year Worcester E-Bike Pilot Program thanks to funding provided by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MassCEC) new Accelerating Clean Transportation for All (ACT4All) Program. The program will provide 100 electric-assist bicycles to low-income participants from environmental justice communities who live and/or work in the City of Worcester. With the goal of tracking the participants' use of the e-bikes to identify the impacts on greenhouse gas reduction due to mode shift. MassBike is also interested in identifying barriers to riding and understanding the economic impact of bicycle use as the primary mode of transportation. In addition to providing e-bikes, as part of this initiative, MassBike is hosting educational events that encourage safe and regular riding.
As of November 2022, we've deployed 89 e-bikes out of the 100 available. Our e-bike riders have taken part in educational bicycle trainings and community rides as part of the program. We're encouraged by the early data that shows that the e-bikes are being used as a reliable transportation method by our participants and are looking forward to the robust data we plan to collect over the next year.
While we had hoped to distribute all 100 bicycles in 2022, the hands-on nature of our distribution approach took longer than expected. We have decided to wait and distribute the remaining 11 e-bikes in Spring 2023, to provide new participants with more favorable riding conditions for their first trips. Read on to learn about the first few months of this program and where we expected to go from here.
Education & Community
Two core components of our Worcester E-Bike program are education and community building. As part of the e-bike deployment process, all participants receive bicycle safety education; including proper helmet use, safety tips for riding in traffic, the importance of using lights at night, and how to properly lock their e-bikes. Each participant also receives training on their specific e-bike, including how to remove their e-bike battery, proper battery charging, how to turn on the assist, and adjusting the different levels of assistance for their e-bike. These hands-on distribution events take time and staff power but ensure that riders are ready to roll with their new e-bikes. We're thankful to Landry's Bicycles for providing the space to host these events and supporting e-bike education for our riders.
In addition to hands-on education, our e-bike participants were invited to join a series of Worcester-based group rides. These riders were put together in partnership with Worcester Earn-A-Bike, 508 BikeLife, AARP Massachusetts, the Major Taylor Association, and Seven Hills Wheelman. These events helped our e-bike participants gain confidence riding on the road with their e-bikes and fostered community. Our e-bike riders shared tips and supported each other at each event. Our E-Bike Program Participant Video features a small sample of our e-bike riders are their distribution events and our Halloween Community ride.
At our Annual Meeting, MassBike's E-Bike Grant Manager, Alex Salcedo, presented an overview of the program and some early data. Between the months of August and October, our e-bike riders traveled 13,465 miles and took 3,367 trips. While the majority of trips in August were for recreational use, by October the majority of e-bike trips were for commuting to work.
"Back in August, our participants rode heavily for recreational purposes and these helped them get more comfortable riding their e-bikes," said Alex. "As months go by, our riders are shifting their usage to other categories to use our e-bikes for shopping more frequently."
The early trip data tells a compelling story about how the participants are using e-bikes for transportation. Alex noted that our riders are expressing interest in adding baskets or racks to their bikes to make grocery shopping easier. MassBike will continue to work with the riders to support more transportation-related trips, like shopping, and we're currently working to support cold-weather riding this winter.
As we roll into 2023, planning has begun for the next phase of the Worcester E-Bike program which will be primarily focused on supporting ridership and continued community building for not only the e-bike participants but the larger Worcester bicycling community. Alex is currently collecting data through a participant survey to guide our program planning and having one-on-one conversations with participants to understand what motivates them to ride. Starting in the Spring of 2023, we'll deploy the final 11 e-bikes and begin our new season of Worcester area-based community bicycling events.