Oregon, and Portland in particular, is internationally known for its love for bikes. Not only does the region have some of the highest bike ridership but the Oregon bike manufacturing industry is quickly growing. Oregon’s electric bike (e-bike) market is also growing but little data are available on the potential market and e-bike user behavior and interest. Only a limited amount of research has explored the potential new market segments for e-bikes and the economic, operational, safety, and transportation issues surrounding e-bikes in the United States.
This report examines the results of an electric bike (e-bike) pilot project, which took place April 2014-September 2015 in the Portland region. Participants from three Kaiser Permanente Northwest campuses (1 urban and 2 suburban) were issued an e-bike for 10 weeks to use for various trip purposes, focusing on first/last-mile commuting. Participants were asked to complete three surveys—before, during and after using the ebike—to evaluate how their perceptions and levels of cycling may have changed. Responses were analyzed using statistical software and a GIS. Results show that participants biked more often and to a wider variety of places than before the study; they become more confident cyclists after the study; and they cited fewer barriers to cycling when given the opportunity to use an e-bike, particularly for overcoming hills and reducing sweat. This study’s findings support the general hypothesis that e-bikes enable users to bike to more distant locations, bike more frequently and allow a broader participation in cycling for certain segments of the population by reducing barriers to cycling. Further research is needed to understand how e-bikes might replace other modes of transportation, including standard bicycles, vehicles and public transit.