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E-bikes: Ride One & Feel Superhuman

By Chamonix Larsen

May is Bike Month, and DEQ is celebrating by inviting guest bloggers to share their thoughts on choosing bicycles as an environmentally friendly form of transportation. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in our community.

Do you ever dream you can fly? Do you dream that you can play the piano like Emily Bear or shoot 3’s like Stephen Curry?  Do you dream to be a superhuman? That is what it is like to ride a pedal-assist, electrified bicycle (e-bike). But we didn’t go to all the trouble to write a grant and create a whole new electric-bicycle component to the State Fleet Motor Pool just to enhance state employees’ self-ego, albeit a perceived side effect. We did it to improve the air.

This spring, the State of Utah Division of Fleet Operations began an e-bike pilot to save energy, fuel, parking fees, and time, as well as improve health. The program will increase the activeness of employees and give employees a zero-tailpipe-emissions solution to getting around the Salt Lake City area, all while wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Capitol Hill employees are able to go to fleet.utah.gov and check out a bicycle with a pedal-assisted electric motor, a technology that senses when a rider needs extra power, such as when riding up Capitol Hill. Employees can reserve the bikes, much like they would a motor pool vehicle, to travel to meetings and events in the downtown area and back to the Capitol again. The bikes can also be taken to other agencies so that employees off the Hill can experience what it is like to ride an electric bicycle.

“We are looking for solutions to clean air and lower costs. The Hill is a great place to pilot e-bikes in our fleet and implement practical, low-emitting transportation. Bicycles can also help employees get around downtown with less parking hassle or cost than in a car,” said Jeff Mottishaw, director of the State of Utah Division of Fleet Operations.

UCAIR e-Bike. Photo credit: Gwen Springmeyer
UCAIR e-Bike. Photo credit: Gwen Springmeyer

The pilot is funded through a partnership grant from UCAIR, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping improve air quality in Utah. The funds support strategies the state is working on to help lead in efforts to reduce emissions from work-related travel and to identify best practices that can be used to improve air quality. If the program has a positive result, the goal would be to expand it to other agencies.

I realize every trip will not be taken on a bicycle. But everything that changes the world starts somewhere. While attending the Utah Government OPS workshop last year, a speaker advised that if you want to change people’s perception, you should engage them in new or different experiences. I am hopeful the experiences employees have using the bicycles will increase clean air choices and a healthier Utah.  Is it wrong that – for a change – the right thing to do is so fun?

Interested in expanding eBikes to state campuses? Contact me and let’s talk. May is also a good time to try one and walk to appointments during the Governor’s fitness challenge encouraging state employees to become Workout Warrior by registering to compete for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Sports Authority. The top three state agencies with the greatest participation will be recognized at the PEHP Healthy Utah Wellness Council Conference on June 23, 2016.
Chamonix Larsen

Chamonix Larsen was appointed the State of Utah Resource Stewardship Coordinator in Fall 2014. Her role is to help state entities share best practices that improve the State’s positive impact on resources, with a specific focus on practices that affect the airshed in Utah.

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