Walk in, ride out
Leo Schiff rides down Main Street in Brattleboro on May 7 on one of Brooks Memorial Library’s electric bikes.

Walk in, ride out

Brooks Memorial Library will now lend e-bikes, thanks to organizations hoping to get people to change the way they think about transportation and community

BRATTLEBORO — You can borrow books, DVDs, tablet computers, telescopes, and even snowshoes from Brooks Memorial Library.

Now, you can add electric-assist bicycles to the list.

On May 7, the Brattleboro E-Bike Lending Library was introduced with a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by test rides on the two new bikes that Brooks will be lending out.

This E-Bike Lending Library was made possible by a collaboration between Local Motion, a Burlington-based nonprofit that describes itself as advocating for “active transportation, vibrant communities, and safe streets,” and the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

It is locally coordinated by VBike, the Brattleboro Energy Committee, the town sustainability coordinator's office, and Brattleboro Time Trade.

Local Motion provides staff support and the bikes, along with bike accessories, a reservation platform, and insurance coverage, according to Dave Cohen, founder and director of VBike.

The nonprofit organization is “dedicated to shifting the bike and bike culture in Vermont towards a far more inclusive, fun, and transportation-oriented future,” according to its website.

“It's an opportunity to take home an e-bike for five full days and get a real-world sense of how an electric bicycle can fit into your life,” he said.

The Brattleboro e-bike lending library is offering two bikes: a cutting edge belt-drive e-bike from Gazelle, and a less expensive, but still powerful, e-bike from Raleigh. Each comes outfitted with panniers (removable bags for shopping or carrying items), mirrors, lights, locks, and helmet.

Local Motion and the Brattleboro e-bike library volunteers say that they are adhering to all COVID-19-related government safety regulations and recommendations. The bikes will be cleaned and disinfected between users, and masks for staff and customers will be required.

Cohen, an evangelist for e-bikes for years, says his work is paying off. In 2020, he said that Green Mountain Power processed 600 e-bike rebates, almost tripling the number from 2019.

And a recent survey performed by the Brattleboro Coalition for Active Transportation revealed that 46 percent of the 140 respondents reported owning an e-bike or e-cargo bike, Cohen said.

He estimates that approximately 1,200 e-bikes are in use in Vermont and many of that number are in the Brattleboro area.

A big reason why, he said, is the collaboration between the AOT and Local Motion, as well as GMP's rebate program, which offers $200 toward the purchase of an e-bike from Vermont bike shops.

The Brattleboro E-Bike Lending Library is the latest addition to VBike's Brattleboro-based demo fleet of electric cargo bikes for families and households, he said. VBike also offers free consultations to help Vermonters determine what e-bike is right for them.

Cohen said that the confluence of climate change and the global pandemic is transforming the landscape of transportation in the nation.

Calling them “a fulfilling, physically engaging way to get around that connects riders to the environment and our communities,” he said that bicycles, particularly e-bikes and e-cargo bikes, are a great strategy for social and environmental change.

They're “a great way to be part of the solution,” he said.

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