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E-Bike Lending Library Launches in the Upper-Valley

by | May 5, 2020

*As of May 1, the e-bike library launch has been postponed due to the coronavirus. Be sure to check for updated information.

Seven Upper Valley towns will host an “e-bike lending library” this year thanks to a collaboration between town energy committees and Burlington-based nonprofit Local Motion. Residents of Norwich, Thetford, Hartford, Hartland, Hanover, Plainfield, and Cornish will have opportunities to borrow e-bikes through October.

“The goal is not just to have people borrow the bikes and test ride them. It’s to get people changing how they get around. We want to turn people from single-occupancy cars to e-biking for at least some portion of their local trips,” said Linda Gray, a longtime Norwich Energy Committee member who helped lead the e-bike effort. “Doing one-shot things is not enough. What we’ve learned from experience is that you have to keep doing things to have an impact on people. It just takes time for people to decide to make the expenditure and to get ready to make a change.”

“Transportation has always been a tough nut to crack,” Linda said. And that’s a big problem, since transportation accounts for the biggest portion of carbon emissions in the bi­ state region. “To have a way that we can begin to push better on transportation is really good.
I’m very pleased with this opportunity to make it something that we all can do on an ongoing basis.”

Norwich hosted Local Motion’s traveling e-bike lending library last summer. With very little publicity—before Linda posted the series of promotional emails she’d prepared for the Norwich Community Discussion List—the two available bikes were quickly booked for the month, and more than 50 people participated in additional learning sessions set up to help meet the demand.

To Linda and others, it signaled an obvious opportunity: “We need to do this again.”

With guidance and support from Vital Communities, members of the seven town energy committees came together to accomplish just that. The result is an Upper Valley-focused extension of Local Motion’s traveling e-bike lending library.

After seeing the demand in Norwich, “I was ready to put my money where my mouth is, even though I’m not a bike rider,” Linda said. She provided funding for Local Motion to purchase two different bike models for the Upper Valley satellite, and Hartland resident Karl Kemnitzer—a longtime proponent of e-bikes who retrofits his own from conventional bikes—donated a converted bike so people can see a range of different options. The bikes will be moved from town to town and maintained by Todd Chewning of Cowbell Bikes.

‘Tm pleased to see the collaboration among the area energy committees. That’s a good thing, and especially for transportation issues that cross town boundaries,” Linda said.

The local e-bikes can be reserved by residents through Local Motion’s online system. For details on when the bikes will be available near you, contact your town energy committee.

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