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  • Tue May 26 2009
  • Posted May 26, 2009
Ames, IA By Kathy Hanson, Staff Writer Faculty and staff get free weeklong test-drives for Bike to Work Month X-treme Scooters, of Newton, revved up excitement for National Bike to Work Month at Iowa State University when it delivered 102 electric bicycles on Thursday for staff and faculty to ride free of charge for a week. Merry Rankin, ISU’s director of sustainability, said about 130 people responded to X-treme Scooter’s offer. Because some of them agreed to share the bikes, Rankin said she only had to turn away a few who wanted to try the XB-300Li lithium battery-powered electric bicycles. By Friday morning, Thomas Weber, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy, had formed a few opinions on the bike’s features. Except for finding the seat a little uncomfortable, he said he’s pleased with the way the 300-watt rear-hub motor senses his speed and keeps it steady, especially on uphill grades. Rankin said she hopes introducing the electric bikes will help faculty and staff, such as Weber, realize how easy it is to bike to work so they’ll consider leaving their cars at home. Rankin said according to her sources each gallon of gas burned in a car engine releases 20 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere. Weber, who drives daily about two miles round trip to do research on campus, estimated his recreational riding may do more to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions than his commute. But Joyce Bricker, a custodian who commutes from Stratford, stands to reduce her carbon footprint significantly, especially if she fulfills the “urban legend” currently circulating. “Rumor has it I bike the 35 miles here from Stratford every day,” she said. “But I really park at the Hilton (Coliseum) lot and bike from there.” Bricker said if she can figure out how to keep the battery charged on the electric bike beyond its 25-mile limit, she’s willing to bike the whole way between campus and Stratford. Bill Simpkins, a professor in geological and atmospheric sciences, is already an avid biker. He said he signed up to receive an electric bike, but gave up his slot in order to give someone else the opportunity to experience the joys of biking to work. Simpkins said his sacrifice will be worth it if the bikes catch on and gain a wider audience. “I’ve heard some people might buy extra battery packs and try them out at RAGBRAI,” he said. Rankin said if faculty and staff have trouble parting with the electric bikes, they may purchase them “at cost,” for about $900. Tom Sagers, a marketing representative from X-treme Scooters, said the electric bikes retail between $1,200 and $1,500, depending on the model and features. The lithium battery lasts up to 10 years, he said. “That’s pretty reasonable,” Sagers said, “considering some unpowered bikes cost as much and the bikes folks use on RAGBRAI can cost up to $4,000.” Rankin said she plans to conduct a follow-up survey to evaluate the bike to work experience and gain a sense of the number of bike miles logged by faculty and staff. Kathy Hanson can be reached at (515) 663-6933 or khanson@amestrib.com

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