PSU researchers delve into the usefulness of e-bikes

The study will examine what it could take to move would-be riders from their cars to two wheels.

The study will examine what it could take to move would-be riders from their cars to two wheels.

Portland State University researchers want to find out whether electric bikes could goad more people into reducing their four-wheeled driving habits.

The school's Jennifer Dill and John MacArthur are examining whether electric-assist bikes, or e-bikes, could in particular encourage women, older adults and people with physical limitations to ride more. The duo has loaned out GPS-equipped e-bikes to 120 people to learn about their experiences using the bikes as well as the frequency with which they ride and the distances they travel.

The project, which began last August, is set to end Dec. 1. Dill and MacArthur received $168,061 in grants for their efforts, which is one of several electric bike-related studies occurring in the region. MacArthur's working on a project that provided Kaiser Permanente with 30 folding e-bikes as the health company determines whether workers will use them to reach various Kaiser campuses.

Dill and MacArthur believe that with e-bike use increasing in North America, scrutiny related to the bikes has increased. Some jurisdictions want to limit where e-bikes can go and who can ride them. Many states require e-bike riders be licensed and set age limits for riding. Others prohibit e-bikes on bicycle and pedestrian paths.

Along with the current research, Dill and MacArthur are also collecting the general public's comments through an e-bike survey.

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