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Kaiser plugs into e-bike research

Hospital employees will ride for Drive Oregon project


by: COURTESY OF OREGON TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH AND EDUCATION CONSORTIUM - Nearly three dozen Curry iZip E3 electric-assist bicycles were distributed this month to Kaiser Permanente employees on three Portland-area campuses. The bikes are part of a research project to see how employees use them.Portland already is one of the top markets in the country for the sale of hybrids and electric cars. But could it also embrace electric bicycles, commonly called e-bikes?

A local research project involving 30 e-bikes was announced on April 24. The Curry iZip E3 bicycles will be provided to 180 Kaiser Permanente employees on three Portland-area campuses during the next year and a half. Each employee will have an e-bike for up to three months, and researchers will evaluate how the bikes were used and the riders’ perceptions of the experience.

The Curry iZip compact bicycles each cost $1,749 and can travel 15 to 22 miles on a charge. They can reach speeds of up to 18 mph, according to the manufacturer.

Other partners include Drive Oregon, a nonprofit advocacy organization, and the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium at Portland State University. The project, funded by a grant obtained through Metro’s Regional Travel Options program, is part of Drive Oregon’s mission to expand the electric vehicle industry in Oregon.

“Electric-assist bikes are every bit as important as electric assist cars, and Oregon is a leader in demonstrating how they support sustainable mobility,” says Jeff Allen, Drive Oregon’s executive director.

Participants may use the e-bikes any way they wish, with the expectation they will be used as a first- and last-mile commuting solution for longer trips. For example, instead of driving to work, participants could take public transportation such as MAX, using the e-bikes to get from home or work to the transit stop. Researchers believe that by offering the combination of regular pedaling and electric-assisted propulsion, e-bikes could hold the key to increasing cycling among women, older adults and people with physical limitations.

“Our participation in this pilot project is the perfect complement to our long-standing commitment in programs that expand opportunities for everyone in the community to live a healthy lifestyle, including ‘open streets’ events such as Sunday Parkways,” says Rich Smith, vice president of human resources at Kaiser Permanente.

The project was announced the day after www.Cars.com released its annual list of the U.S. cities with the most eco-friendly car shoppers. It said Portland had the eighth-greenest car shoppers, trailing six cities in California, which has the most incentives of any state for the purchase of hybrids and electric cars. The only non-California city ranked higher than Portland was Charlottesville, Va., at No. 2.

Cars.com is an online resource for buying and selling new and used vehicles. Its annual list is based on car shopper searches on Cars.com for hybrid and electric cars.

“With gas prices continuing to rise, car shoppers have more reason than ever to shop for eco-friendly cars,” said Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com’s executive editor and resident green expert.