I made this joke a couple of months ago to some people, “Maybe the city should just sell SAM and buy current transit riders an E-Bike.”
Imagine my surprise when I heard about this NY Times Article today;
I’m no stranger to bike commuting, I have been doing it on and off, depending on the job since 1993. But like the article mentions, you get sweaty. I have been putting off getting an E-Bike, because up until this point, I don’t think many models are worth a crap (there are only about 3-5 brands that are worth a damn) and I have quite the non-ebike collection now, mostly cruisers I have fixed up or saved from the junk pile that are wonderful for leisure rides and short commutes and as I lovingly call ‘My Children’.
I first started with an E-Scooter (that only rides on the streets) 2 years ago, which I love. But it is heavy and you cannot pedal it.
So after visiting San Diego in May and riding a certified throttle E2 I was sold and finally narrowed it down to my Ariel Rider (top pic). The bike I chose is not for everyone. It has a center bar and is made for shorter people. But it rides and handles like a motorcycle, and I won’t even tell you the speed I get out of it, but I have been riding everyday since I got it a month ago and it is amazing and the charge is good for 40 miles. The only thing I can suggest for you is to do your research (I watched hours of video reviews and read tons of data about batteries and motors). I don’t see myself driving my car at all next summer except for when it is raining (but this is an all-weather bike you can ride through most weather events except for like a blizzard or ice storm). Other brands like RAD and Himiway are also year round E-Bikes that are actually very affordable and tough as nails. The other advantage of having a bike VS. a car is that it can be included on your homeowners or renters insurance.
So how would it change our perception of Public Transit in Sioux Falls?
I’m not naive, I realize that there are many people who ride SAM that cannot bike or walk to work. But what if we reduced the size of SAM to targeted pickups and simply buy anyone who qualifies a good E-bike with a tool kit and access to affordable parts and a trade-in program? It would be life changing and you might even be able to diversify the workforce in Sioux Falls. If the city bought durable E-Bikes at a bulk rate they could probably get the bikes for under $1,000 a piece. They could probably even get a Federal Transportation grant for it out of the infrastructure bill. You could also exchange the FREE bike for a one-time volunteer opportunity to pick up trash along the river and bike trail or any other number of community projects.
Here is an example, through Federal housing grants it already costs around $300K to build one multi-family home in Sioux Falls. Can you imagine how many working people you would impact if you spent half that on FREE E-bikes Instead? It would be enormous. You could also set the program up so they could trade the bikes in for an upgraded model in a couple of years and make sure the bikes are specially marked from being sold to Pawn Shops, etc.
There are a lot of details to be worked out and YES some people may abuse the system but I can tell you from my experience of getting on a true E2 for the first time in California, once you ride one, you are sold. Many of these bikes can also fold up and be very compact for a small living space, and like my model, the batteries are detachable for recharging in case you have to store it outside. Let’s just say besides saving public tax dollars in transit costs it gives recipients of these bikes enormous FREEDOM they did not have before standing and waiting for the bus.
I think when it comes to commuting to work in Sioux Falls, we really need to think outside the box, and big clunky buses really are NOT cutting it anymore.
I grew up always having a bike, and I can’t imagine what it would be like NOT having one now, especially to someone who is working poor and cannot afford a vehicle. Instead of blowing millions on parking ramps, tennis courts and ice ribbons, maybe we should be investing in reliable transportation for workers. Just a thought.