Apr 05, 2018
Principal Investigators: John MacArthur, Portland State University; and Christopher Cherry, University of Tennessee
Learn more about this education project by viewing the Executive Summary and the full Final Report on the Project Overview page.

If more drivers switched seats to a bicycle, there would be immediate and tangible benefits on the road. Widespread adoption of bike commuting could improve public health through increased physical activity and reduced carbon emissions, as well as ease the burden on congested roads. However different lifestyle demands, physical ableness, and varied topography create an unequal playing field that prevents many from replacing their car trips.

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) are a relatively new mode of transportation that could bridge this gap. If substituted for car use, e-bikes could substantially improve efficiency in the transportation system while creating a more inclusive biking culture for people of all ages and abilities.

A newly published NITC study by John MacArthur of...

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Feb 20, 2017

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 them...

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Dec 10, 2015

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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 surrounding e-bikes in the United States. This webinar will present findings from a research project evaluating e-bike use at three Kaiser Permanente employment centers in the Portland region.

The project's primary goal was to test user acceptance of electric-assist folding bicycles as a commuting solution.

...

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Nov 12, 2014

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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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Aug 28, 2014

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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Jun 03, 2013

Even as Portland racks up bike-friendly honors, ongoing research at Portland State University is shedding light on a new travel option that promises to get even more people on two wheels. Electric-assist bikes, or e-bikes, could hold the key to increasing cycling, particularly among women, older adults and people with physical limitations.

Portland State researchers Jennifer Dill and John MacArthur are exploring people’s perceptions and attitudes toward e-bikes and evaluating their use to see if these bikes encourage new cyclists. This spring, they’re loaning out locally made, GPS-equipped e-bikes to 120 people to learn about people’s actual experience using the bikes, marking the first time such research has been done in the country. 

The research also includes a survey on e-bike use, which will help others understand the potential market. People who have ridden e-bikes can participate in this research by taking the survey at tinyurl.com/e-bike-survey.

E-bike use is increasing in North America, with many people switching from private cars and others using e-bikes to keep cycling as they age or after an injury. Increased use brings increased scrutiny, and efforts are already underway to limit where e-bikes can go and who can ride them. Many states require e-bike riders be licensed, set age limits or both.

Some local regulations prohibit e-bikes on bicycle and pedestrian paths. The city of Toronto,...

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