Free e-bikes: Pedal Ahead provides free e-bikes to low-income families as part of research study

Electric bikes can cost thousands of dollars. Way too expensive for people on a tight budget – unless they’re part of Pedal Ahead, a San Diego-based nonprofit launched in 2020.

“It saves me a lot of money and wear and tear on my vehicle,” said program participant Christopher Castor.

Pedal Ahead’s “Loan to Own” program offers low-income families free access to e-bikes if they agree to ride at least five miles a day for two years, while tracking and sharing those rides for a study that will help make cities more e-bike friendly.

“With data, you can really define how people ride and not just take a cookie-cutter bike path and repave it and say, ‘We’ve got more bike paths,'” explained Ed Clancy, founder of Pedal. Ahead. “Data is going to define how people ride and where they go and I hope cities embrace that.”

Participants must provide their own bike insurance, which can cost around $15 per month, but once their two years of riding are over, they own the bike.

For people like Carla Crudup, getting out of a vehicle and onto her e-bike has opened her eyes to the world around her.

“You see little shops and landscaping and flowers. It’s just fantastic,” she said.

Since the program began, Pedal Ahead has distributed 400 e-bikes in San Diego County, which equates to 270,000 bike miles.

Now the program is expanding statewide in a $10,000 e-bike incentive program.

Clancy is excited about what the expansion will bring.

“We’re just seeing positive benefits across the board with communities that wouldn’t think of having an e-bike, but we’ve seen that the e-bike can be that tool for a solution to a lot of things,” he said. declared.

Replacing short car trips with e-bikes can help improve the environment, and the power provided by the e-bike makes bicycling possible for people like Everett Crudup, who knows how restrictive life can be when a heart disease like his makes exercise difficult.

“Being on this bike is hugely liberating. It gives me legs that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” he said.

The “Loan to Own” program via Pedal Ahead does more than just provide an electric bike. Novice riders receive safety training, tune-ups, and bike repairs to encourage continued use.

But the path to homeownership is what creates options for better financial health.

Carla Cruddup points out: “It allows people to get on a bike which can be expensive, but it certainly has its benefits and long term longevity.”

“I had a lot more freedom with one of them,” Castor added. “It’s like having a car. You can go anywhere. You can get on a train with it so…it’s great.”

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Christy J. Olson