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Vital Communities E bike Program: Fast, Comfortable and Convenient

Aug 18, 2020 01:14PM ● By Virginia Dean

Vital Community member Melanie Michel of Norwich gives her daughter a ride on a cargo e-bike.

They are fast becoming one of the most popular forms of transportation, especially as countries begin to emerge from the pandemic with individuals avoiding such traditional systems as subways, trains, and busses that are potential hothouses for COVID-19.

It is the e-bike, a unique form of conveyance to assist a rider’s pedal-power with a small electric motor used for propulsion. Europeans are doing it; Americans are doing it; even China has bought into it. And why not? They are fast, comfortable, and convenient, allowing social distancing while still being active.

Locally, e-bikes have become the star performers for Local Motion’s Upper Valley E-Bike Library organized by eight Upper Valley town energy committees with the help of Vital Communities. This nonprofit organization cultivates the civic, environmental, and economic vitality of the Upper Valley. The new program of Local Motion is a spin-off of its popular Traveling E-bike Library that visited Hartford and Norwich last summer.

The primary goal of the loan program is to increase e-bike usage and awareness of e-bikes as a viable transportation mode within the Upper Valley said Linda Gray of the Norwich Energy Committee and one of the founders of the program.

“If people can try them out, they can see how well they work,” said Gray. “And, making an e-bike a regular part of how you get around can have a big impact on your household carbon emissions. Biking to work just one day each week, for example, would, on average, save 900 lbs. of CO2. Increase that to 3-4 days a week, and do that for 30+ weeks a year, it adds up.”

As a new e-bike owner, Rebecca Bailey, Communications Manager at Vital Communities, said she thinks they’re here to stay.

“They help all sorts of people use bikes who would not otherwise find it comfortable or practical.”

Bailey lives on top of a steep, two-mile gravel road, and although she has been a cyclist all her life, she said she couldn’t deal with that now.

“Now I can, and so I am happily – no, ecstatically – riding to and from my front door,” said Bailey. “Another person I know can’t ride a regular bike because of the strain it puts on a fused wrist joint, but e-bikes solve it. For each e-bike convert, I suspect, there’s a different story.”

E-bikes use rechargeable batteries, electric motors, and some form of control. There are many design variations, some with batteries attached to the frame and others housed within the tube.

The E-bike Library program began this June and will run through the end of October. The Library will be stationed in various Upper Valley communities. Residents of each community can borrow either two e-bike models free of charge for a few days (or for an hour) to try out the two-wheeler.

The Library is scheduled to be based in the following locations during the following time periods:  

August 1-30, Cornish/Plainfield; August 31-September 20 Hartland; September 32-October 11 Hartford; October 12-November 1 Hanover. Vital Communities plans to continue the program in the spring, Gray related. Specifics will depend on the pandemic.

Relative to keeping safe, each bike will go through a rigorous cleaning protocol after being returned from one borrower and again before being lent to the next one.

For further information, visit vitalcommunities.org/transportation/get-ready-for-the-upper-valley-e-bike-library/ or call Vital Communities in White River Junction, VT, at 802.291.9100. The program organizer is Linda Gray of the Norwich Energy Committee. She can be reached at [email protected] or 802.649.2032.

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