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Despite efforts to get more people biking, North America still has low ridership numbers.

The problem? Biking is hard.

A new NITC report by John MacArthur of TREC offers a solution to that problem: e-bikes. 

Many people surveyed say that having to pedal up hills and arriving at their destination sweaty are major deterrents to commuting by bike, even when bike lanes and other facilities are there.

Researchers have put a lot of thought into ways to get more people riding bicycles by improving bicycle infrastructure, land use and public engagement. The efforts are largely due to concerns about congestion, climate change and public health.

Comparatively little research, however, has focused on the bicycle itself.

MacArthur and co-investigator Jennifer Dill teamed up with Drive Oregon, Metro and Kaiser Permanente Northwest to provide Kaiser employees with electric-assist bicycles (e-bikes) to use for a trial period of ten weeks. The goal was to see if e-bikes might help overcome some commonly cited barriers to cycling.

The study, Evaluation of Electric Bike Use at Three Kaiser Permanente NW Employment Centers in Portland Metro Region, took place in Portland, Oregon from April 2014 to September 2015. A total of 150 Kaiser employees participated in the study. Fewer than 10 percent of...

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Apr 21, 2016
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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 in the nation but the Oregon bike manufacturing industry is quickly growing as well. 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...

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Oct 18, 2013
Content Type: Events

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Summary: Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are well established in China and other Asian and European countries but have yet to realize their potential in the United States, although recently the number of e-bikes has been growing. Research on the economic, operational, and safety issues of e-bikes in the U.S. is limited. This research aims in part to understand if different bicycling technology, in this case electric assist bicycles or e-bikes, can reduce barriers to bicycling and encourage more bike trips and longer bike trips, and increase the diversity of people bicycling, including people with a disability or chronic injury to bicycle. Some of these barriers include trip distance, topography, time, and rider effort. E-bikes typically resemble a standard pedal bicycle with the addition of a rechargeable battery and electric motor to assist the rider with propulsion. To answer these questions, we conducted an online survey of existing e-bike users on their purchase and use decisions. Results from 553 e-bike users across North America are analyzed here. Results suggest that e-bikes are enabling users to bike more often, to more distant locations, and to carry more cargo with them. Additionally, e-bikes allow people who would otherwise not be able to bike because of physical limitations or...

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In 2009, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed the Copenhagen Wheel, a device that converts an ordinary bicycle into a hybrid e-bike.

An e-bike is considered a motorized bicycle under Massachusetts law. This means that once the 13-pound, 26-inch Copenhagen Wheel is attached to the rear wheel of a bicycle, the resulting vehicle requires a driver’s license to operate, must be registered with the DMV, and its rider must wear, not just a bike helmet, but a motorcycle helmet to be in compliance with the law.

Electric bicycles, or e-bikes, are well established in China and other Asian and European countries but market adoption has been slow in the United States.

Part of the reason could be that the law is often nebulous where e-bikes are concerned.

NITC researchers at Portland State University conducted a policy review revealing the current state of legislation regarding e-bikes in the United States and Canada.

The report, Regulations of E-Bikes in North America, provides a summary of legal definitions and requirements surrounding the use of electric-assist bicycles in each of the 50 states, Washington D.C. and 13 Canadian provinces.

No two jurisdictions are exactly alike in their legal treatment of this relatively new mode of...

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The executive committee of the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program has selected a third round of research, education, and technology transfer projects for funding. This grant is part of the University Transportation Center (UTC) program funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Research and Technology, and is a partnership between Portland State University, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Institute of Technology, and the University of Utah. The committee chose eight projects, totaling $800,000, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities. 
 
The projects are national in scope and support innovations in priority areas including public transit and active transportation. 
 
Projects selected include:
  • An analysis of the effects of commuter rail on population deconcentration.
  • A look into prioritizing pedestrians at signalized intersections.
  • A study of cyclist-vehicle interaction.
  • An evaluation of an eco-driving intervention.
The eight projects were chosen from among 20 proposals...
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Bicycle and pedestrian safety has emerged as a top priority for U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the Department of Transportation. With this in mind, the department’s top research official visited Portland State University, home to the U.S. DOT-designated national center for livable communities.

Greg Winfree, the assistant secretary for research and technology, visited Portland State’s transportation research and education center June 13. Center Director Jennifer Dill and researcher Christopher Monsere gave Winfree a tour of the center’s living laboratory: Portland’s active transportation infrastructure.

Winfree, an advocate for improving safety for vulnerable road users, explored the city’s various bicycle safety efforts, including bike boulevards, protected bike lanes, bike boxes, bike-specific signals and signage. He also learned of pedestrian research involving traffic signals, crossings and modeling

The tour highlighted research projects funded through U.S. DOT...

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The NITC program's executive committee has selected a new roster of projects for funding under the National Institute for Transportation and Communities, or NITC, program. The committee chose 10 projects, totaling $900,000, under the NITC theme of safe, healthy and sustainable transportation to foster livable communities.

The projects are national in scope and reflect priority areas including transit supply and outcomes, and pedestrian and bicyclist behavior. 

Projects selected include:

  • A bicycle and pedestrian miles traveled project for Washington state.
  • A study that measures the effectiveness on social media on advancing public transit.
  • A look into crowdsourcing the collection of data on transportation behavior.
  • A national study of Bus Rapid Transit outcomes.
The 10 projects were chosen from among 25 proposals with a total request of nearly $2.25 million. 

A complete list of projects and principal investigators is below:

  1. National Study of BRT Development Outcomes: Arthur Nelson and Joanna Ganning, University of Utah
  2. Crowdsourcing the Collection of Transportation Behavior Data: Christopher Bone, Ken Kato and Marc Schlossberg...
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OTREC at Portland State University welcomed Eva Heinen of the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, for a special seminar June 18. Around 40 people attended the presentation, held at the Intelligent Transportation Systems Laboratory and titled “Cycling in the Netherlands and Multi-Modality.”

Eva Heinen is assistant professor of infrastructure planning and mobility at the Department of Spatial Planning and Environment, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen. She earned a Ph.D. from Delft University of Technology in 2011 focusing on bicycle commuting.

Many people in Groningen and The Netherlands as a whole combine transit and bicycling for trips. A typical configuration involves cycling from home to a train station and then renting another bicycle to reach the final destination, Heinen said.

Few people take bicycles on transit, Heinen said, and buses don’t offer bike racks or other accommodations. Folding bikes, whose compact size allows for portability, are one exception, Heinen said. Electric-assist bikes are also popular, particularly with older people.

Heinen has published many papers on cycling in international and national journals and has a large international network in cycling. She spent three months at the University of California in Davis as a visiting scholar. She is a member of the editorial board of Rooilijn, a Dutch journal for science and policy in spatial planning; a member of the Bicycle Committee; co-chair of the...

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