The Impact of E-Bike Libraries: Electro Bici is Turning One Year Old

Electro-bici riders stop in front of a mural in Pacoima

It’s been a bit over a year since our team (Shane Paul, Pat Cray, and myself) went out to Los Angeles to support the launch of Pacoima Beautiful’s Electro Bici E-Bike Library. Recently, we had a chance to catch-up with Melisa Walk and Angel Arzola of Pacoima Beautiful and Lena Williams of People For Mobility Justice (PMJ) to talk about where Electro Bici is at, one year in.

Utilizing 100 former Uber e-bikes (that Shane led the retrofitting and repairs of) Electro Bici makes e-bike available to residents in the Pacoima neighborhood of Los Angeles. Electro-Bici sets out to address two pressing issues in the Northeast San Fernando Valley: access to clean mobility options and economic recovery from COVID 19.

Members who join the program’s rider cohorts are able to borrow e-bikes for extended periods. “We know that some members are using the bikes as their main form of transportation,” said Melisa, Policy Associate at Pacoima Beautiful. Members find the e-bikes are great for traveling the long distances that riders take throughout nearby neighborhoods in the valley. Angel handles all bike maintenance for the members out of a Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles site in Pacoima.

In addition to the rider cohorts, group e-bike rides have been an especially impactful aspect of the program. Group rides allow residents to try e-bikes while touring Pacoima’s intricate murals and community gardens. According to Melisa, Electro Bici has had 5 group rides into the season. There's been a mix of regular users riding the bikes for their every day needs and riders that just come out for the camaraderie of group riding. "I really love the community rides, they've really been a highlight of the program!"

One thing that has been amazing about the program is that it's brought shared e-bikes to the San Fernando Valley. As Melisa recalled one member saying, "I used to go to Santa Monica and see electric bikes. I never thought I'd see them here in Pacoima." Before Electro Bici, there was no shared bike program anywhere near Pacoima (LA’s bikeshare does not extend to this section of the city).

Looking towards the future, Melisa and her colleagues at Pacoima Beautiful are thankful for the guidance from Lena and PMJ for teaching them how to lead bicycle programming. It has been exciting for Shane, myself and the rest of our team to see the impact of the shared bike programming models we piloted in Western New York being adapted and replicated in Pacoima.

Here at SMI we work with community groups to launch community controlled programs just like Electro Bici. As illustrated by Pacoima Beautiful and PMJ’s work, I believe these aspects are the makings of a successful shared e-bike program:

  1. Local expertise - Lead organizations need to be well established in their community and have some baseline expertise to manage an e-bike library
  2. Funding - The people doing the work need to be paid. Community organizations need to be funded to train and pay their staff to lead these programs
  3. Passion - Successful programs like Electro Bici are shaped by their leaders’ passion to build transportation futures for their communitites

Associated Program: Electro-Bici