Residents and workers in Santa Barbara County can try out various models of electric bikes for free and participate in a program that will help determine which set of wheels is best for them.
A new e-bike project operated by the Traffic Solutions division of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments is underway with a demo program of several models, including cargo bikes, cruisers, city bikes and foldable bikes, to locals and commuters as a measure to reduce traffic and air pollution in the county.
“We are talking about an e-bike revolution and getting multimodal transportation a thing in Santa Barbara County,” SBCAG EZ Bike Project coordinator Nancy Eckert said. “People want to try it and see if this can work in their lifestyle, and do side-by-side comparisons.”
The e-bikes are located at an enclosed, self-serve bike storage facility at 1219 Anacapa St. in downtown Santa Barbara. The secure structure is Santa Barbara-run.
Before embarking on a journey, the rider is equipped with educational tools on handling and operating an e-bike as well as the rules of the road, locking mechanisms, a paper map of area routes and other resources.
“I talk to them (riders) about the differences of riding an e-bike on the road,” Eckert said. “Education is important to me.”
The program will allow a rider to borrow an e-bike for an hour or up to four days.
“People can see how they can use an e-bike in their life,” Eckert said. “Go to the market, go to the beach and go on a regular bike ride … use them for errands, and see if we can replace car trips with an e-bike.”
Findings show that the majority of car trips are less than five miles, Eckert said.
The program includes a fleet of 12 e-bikes available from local and online retailers.
Offering people a chance to demo an e-bike is helping address people’s questions about e-bike usage, along with other factors such as their ideal fit and feasibility. The e-bike selection offers participants the opportunity to compare several features and ride quality between the different demo bikes, SBCAG officials said.
“We want to take some of the mystery out of this, and we want to give people an experience,” Eckert said, adding that e-bikes are made in several varieties. “We carry the varieties that support commuting.”
In addition to lowering a carbon footprint and rides that are fun, Eckert noted other benefits of e-bike riding. People can ride in everyday clothes, without breaking a sweat, and without needing cycling-specific shoes during their commuting trip.
“You can sweat if you want, but you don’t have to,” Eckert said. “You can easily do a 10-mile commute with no sweating.”
There is no charge to test-ride an e-bike, but there is a holding credit card payment to cover a damage deposit. People interested in reserving an e-bike must either live or work in Santa Barbara County, according to SBCAG officials.
For more information about reserving an e-bike for a demo, visit EZBike.org. Reservation options are available Thursday to Monday and must be made by 5 p.m. the Wednesday before the reservation. Each rider will complete an online pre-ride survey before confirmation of a booking, according to SBCAG.
“It is like being superhuman,” SBCAG Traffic Solutions Director Kent Epperson said of riding an e-bike.
Greater competition and economies of scale have lowered the price and increased the accessibility, quality and selection of e-bikes, Epperson said.
“Major bike manufactures now have a whole line up of e-bikes,” Epperson said. “They are bringing a wide range of styles.”
The downtown Santa Barbara EZ Bike Project debuted to the public in early February.
In the coming months, SBCAG said, it is planning to offer shorter demo rides on weekdays and during single-day, pop-up opportunities countywide.
“We wanted to make sure that bikes that we offered in this demo program were bikes you can go into a local shop and buy,” Epperson said. “There are a couple of bikes in our fleet that you can buy online.”
EZ Bike Project participants can receive a discount for an e-bike or bike accessory at some local stores, according to SBCAG. Bicycle Bob’s in Goleta is offering a 10% discount (up to $250) on a Trek e-bike, and Santa Barbara Electric Bikezzz is offering a free high-security lock with the purchase of an e-bike, SBCAG officials said. Click here for more information.
The Traffic Solutions division serves as the countywide rideshare organization with a mission of reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality by encouraging people to drive less and utilize sustainable transportation, according to SBCAG.