UW News

November 29, 2007

Electric bikes coming to campus next year

UW News

Got a midday errand? If you could bike there, would you do it?

Next question: Would you be more likely to use a bike for that errand if it was one you didn’t necessarily have to pedal?

Think it over, because come next fall, you’ll likely have such a choice on the UW campus.

That’s because the UW, in partnership with the Boulder, Colo.-based Intrago Corp., is receiving $200,000 from the Washington State Department of Transportation for a one-of-a-kind pilot program offering a new approach to commuter mobility.

The money will be used to create a fleet of 40 electric bicycles to be distributed at four yet-to-be-designed kiosks across campus. The bikes will go about 25 miles on a single charge (given that the rider does not pedal; more if they do), with a top speed of about 20 miles an hour.

The program is part of the Transportation Office’s ongoing effort to get members of the UW community out of their single-driver vehicles and into car pools or onto buses, said Josh Kavanagh, the office’s director.

“It’s all about reducing that final barrier or last hurdle in getting somebody who wants to do the right thing — lower-impact transportation” but can’t because the bus stop is too far from their office or they have daytime errands.

“It’s our hope that people will use this as a combined thing — not just pedal and not just electric,” Kavanagh said. “It becomes a matter of choice.”

He said the program is being designed to help two different types of commuters: those needing help connecting with transit as they commute to and from the campus — called “last mile” service — and those who need extra help getting around during the day.

For commuters, he said, “we are deliberately siting kiosks in a way to help support the last mile,” meaning the distance between wherever people get off public transportation and their final destination.”

And of those with midday errands he said, “They are a way for someone who would otherwise have needed to bring a personal vehicle to campus, to move about during the day,” he said. “When you think about the campus, it’s not a point on a map, it’s a big geographic area. Your commute solution may drop you in a different area than your final destination.”

Kavanagh said if commuters use the bikes to reach campus, the vehicles “will be where they need to be for midday mobility — so there’s a certain organic beauty to how the system should work.”

Mitchell Magdovitz, director of business development for Intrago, a company formed in 2005 and dedicated to ecologically friendly transportation options, said bike design and renting procedures — including rates — are still being discussed. But holders of the UW’s UPASS card will receive a discount.

The program will be the first of its kind on any university campus, and among the first installations in the United States.