The popularity of electric bicycles (e-bikes) has grown recently in Vermont, but little is known about how Vermonters use e-bikes and what cities and towns can do to increase their use as an alternative to driving. Master’s student Stephen Montaño hopes that his research with the University of Vermont Transportation Research Center with Prof. Greogory Rowangould will help answer these questions. Stephen has been doing bicycle research for several years during his undergraduate years at the University of New Mexico. In both 2018 and 2019, Stephen was awarded a Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship to support his e-bike research as a graduate research assistant.
Stephen cites the health, economic, and environmental benefits that come with using bicycles as the motivation for his interest in studying bicycling. Bicycling as a form of transportation benefits public health by improving air quality and providing the rider with physical activity. Furthermore, bicycling offers an economically accessible transportation mode for people who can’t afford the upfront and ongoing costs of owning a vehicle. Stephen developed a survey to understand differences in how Vermonters using conventional and e-bikes choose their bicycle routes, the types of trips they make on bicycles, how safe they feel while riding and their preferences for different types of bicycle facilities and street designs. The preliminary analysis of the survey data indicates that some differences exist between e-bike and conventional bicycle riders regarding route choice and infrastructure preferences. Stephen’s next steps will be digging into the complete survey results and creating a statistical model to better understand the significance of the differences between conventional and e-bike users. Although Vermont’s transportation system is designed primarily to accommodate cars, Stephen purports that Vermonters can take advantage of the benefits of bicycling if the system’s infrastructure is optimized to suit bikes and e-bikes as forms of transportation. He hopes that this research will help communities across the state improve the design of streets and paths so that riding a conventional or e-bike is safer, more convenient and enjoyable for all.