Evaluation of Electric Bike Use at Three Kaiser Permanente NW Employment Centers in Portland Metro Region

Principal Investigator

John MacArthur, Portland State University

Co-Investigator(s)

Jennifer Dill, Portland State University

Summary

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 proposal aims to gain greater understanding of how e-bikes can be integrated into…

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 proposal aims to gain greater understanding of how e-bikes can be integrated into a sustainable transportation system. In the U.S., e-bikes are bicycles that have an electric motor that assists, but does not replace, the power provided by the rider. In other words, the rider still needs to pedal; the motor provides extra help which is particularly useful when starting from a stop and going up hills.  E-bikes have the potential to overcome common barriers to cycling, including hilliness and long trip distances. Existing qualitative research indicates that certain segments of the population may be particularly attracted to e-bikes, including women, older adults, and people with some physical limitations.

Drive Oregon and Kaiser Permanente Northwest have developed a program to give e-bikes to Kaiser employees at three Portland region campuses for trial use. The program’s primary goal is to test user acceptance of electric-assist folding bicycles as a first/last mile commuting solution and be able to communicate positive stories to a broad range of workplaces to help reduce single occupancy vehicle (SOV) use. By addressing first and last mile issues and barriers, as well as midday errand trips while at the workplace, the project seeks to demonstrate the e-bike’s role as an everyday commuting substitute to the SOV in many cases when tied to existing transportation infrastructure. As part of the program goals, the plan is to create a replicable model for deployment within Kaiser as well as other area employers.

In attempts to inform ongoing e-bike research, this research project has two objectives: (1) Understand Kaiser Permanente employee perceptions and attitudes of e-bikes; and (2) Evaluate the use of e-bikes by study participants in Portland Metro region. The objectives will be addressed through surveys of study participants and GPS trip collection. Thirty folding e-bikes will be equipped with a GPS device to collect usage data. Data will be gathered from at least 180 participants, each of which will have use of an e-bike for a ten week period. Participant use and behavior data will be collected before, during and after use of the bikes. This e-bike evaluation study can provide valuable insight into the potential market, user characteristics and barriers to adoption.

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Project Details

Year: 2012
Project Cost: $168,061
Project Status: In Progress
Start Date: August 1, 2012
End Date: August 31, 2015
Theme:
TRB RiP: 32178

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Additional Info

Presentations

  • John MacArthur, Mark Person and Jennifer Dill E-bikes in the US (Poster), 2013-06-20, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

OTREC by the Numbers

  • Total value of projects funded: $12.2 million
  • Number of projects funded: 153
  • Number of faculty partners: 98
  • Number of external partners participating in OTREC: 46

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