Denverites went crazy for e-bikes. Here’s an early look at how they’re being used.

A small sample size suggests they’re doing the job advocates hope they’ll do.
3 min. read
Cyclists speed by Denver Parks and Recreation’s safety booth on the Cherry Creek Trail, May 16, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

More than 2,100 Denverites have cashed in government rebates worth up to $1,700 for e-bikes since April, as part of the city's push toward cleaner modes of travel.

But, you might wonder, are those new bikes collecting dust in garages next to holiday decorations and broken tennis rackets? Are they being used? If so, how often? Are they the climate solution advocacy groups suggest they could be?

We don't have answers to all of those questions and won't for some time. But the makers of a private phone app have some clues -- and they shared them with Denverite.

The Ride App, which users download to track and map bicycle trips, has been collecting trip data for the last month from some recipients of the city's e-bike rebate. The app is up to 42 users as of Tuesday, and the developer's analysis of their trip data found that 50 percent of rebate recipients use their e-bikes every single day.

"They're getting ridden," said Nelle Pierson, head of marketing for Ride App. "They're getting ridden a lot."

The average trip length for app users who got e-bike rebates is 3.26 miles and lasts nearly 20 minutes. That's much shorter than the 17 mile-average of a bicycle trip recorded on Strava, an activity-tracking app popular with athletes. But it's twice as far as the average length of a shared e-bike trip through a service like Lyft or Lime, according to developers at Ride App, which has agreements with local governments to provide metrics for shared bikes and scooters.

"We're seeing that e-bikes -- especially ones that have been purchased through the rebate program -- are serving a type of trip that is getting people further and hopefully replacing the need and reliance on cars," Pierson said.

Don't take those figures as gospel, though.

All of Ride App's users chose to participate in the data collection, which may skew the results. (Random samples of a given population are the gold standard in the social sciences, while data from self-selected samples is seen as being prone to bias.)

And Pierson admits that 42 users out of the 2,107 e-bike rebate users is not a large enough sample size to hang your hat on. So they are dangling a $30 bike shop gift card to encourage more people to sign up for the app to boost that figure.

Pierson said they will release some of their statistics publicly on Wednesday. City officials say they're eager to see them, and that they are prepping a survey of their own to go out in the "next few weeks."

"Now that people have been riding their new e-bikes for a few months, we want to know how they're using them," said Winna McLaren, spokeswoman for Denver's Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency.

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