Look ma, no hands! E-bikes are here!

October 2023

Did you know that nearly 70% of car trips are two miles or less? 

Did you also know that e-bikes are the most energy-efficient form of motorized transport, consuming the electricity equivalent of about 1,000 miles per gallon of gasoline? 

Did you know that Minnesota e-bike rebates are coming down the road soon (pun!), with the potential of a maximum rebate of 75% of the value of the bicycle up to $1,500?

Zowsa! Hold on to your helmet! Here are three stories of communities who are pedaling ahead of the pack, reaching over 10,000 people!

Three, 2-wheeled projects!

Trees and blue sky in the background.  In the foreground a woman sits at a table with signage sitting on it. An electric bike is in front of the table.

The Regional Fitness Center in Stevens County educated the community about e-bikes and introduced two e-bikes to the community to rent.

Two women in coats standing next to bicycles in a parking lot.

Students at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter County led a variety of projects and events to spread the word about e-bikes and clean energy.

A photo of a promotional flyer showing illustrated images of a bike helmet, a building, and a bicycle. Words on flyer are indistinct.

The City of Jackson in Southwest Minnesota teamed up with local businesses to promote walking and biking.

Growing Support for Electric Biking in Stevens County

A recent project out of Morris, Minnesota gave the public a chance to take e-bikes for a spin! The Regional Fitness Center (RFC) founded in 1999, led the pilot project. RFC is a joint powers not-for-profit organization serving the U of M - Morris, the City of Morris, Stevens County, and the Morris Area School District. Recently, they added two e-bikes for rent to the community. With a project goal of 500 new renters, the program leaders were pleasantly surprised to have 670 people participate. How did they do it?

Clare Sorensen with RFC explains that they created interest by bringing the bikes into the community. “We were able to attend many different events with the bikes where we could reach people from all over the state. Events like the Midwest Farm Energy Convention; West Central Research and Outreach Center’s Horticulture Night; Stevens County Fair; West-Central Minnesota school field trips; and more!”

The project not only beat RFC’s outreach goals, it helped them highlight the connection between healthy living and sustainable living. That’s what we call tandem riding!

"We learned that a lot can be done in a short time, and a lot of reach can be done through small gatherings and short teachings!"

- Clare Sorensen

Clare noted that although they can measure the number of event attendees, the indirect number of people reached from their outreach – people who saw fliers, or read the newspaper articles – is much harder to measure. 

The pilot project has created additional spin offs. “We are continuing the electric bike rentals at the RFC, and will be introducing a few new peddle bikes to our list of rental items!” noted  Sorensen. “The Office of Sustainability, UMM Student Center, RFC, and a few locations in the town of Morris will have a few bikes at each location for community members and students to be able to use.” 

Promoting Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency In Diverse Communities

A second project comes to us from St. Peter, Minnesota. That’s where leaders at Gustavus Adolphus College recently put a CERTs Seed Grant to use in supercharging student clean energy efforts. 

Kari Wallin, Sustainability Program Manager at Gustavus, says their project took students on a ‘Tour de Minnesota.’ (A symbolic race, of course!) With a focus on two events – “Mankato Recharge” and “Solve Climate 2022 Teach-In” – Gustavus students led a variety of projects to spread the word about e-bikes and clean energy. They held clean energy focused meetings with a regional planning board member, local energy assistance employees, the St. Peter City Council, the St. Peter City Administrator; they participated in the South Central Minnesota Clean Energy Council board meetings and forums; students handed out energy assistance information at the St. Peter Food Shelf; lastly, they promoted electric biking and energy conservation at Gustavus.

Their efforts appear to be paying off. 

“As a result (of their activities), three additional e-bike kits were purchased! The student interns participated in putting together batteries and installing the kits on bikes,” says Wallin. 

Wallin notes that the impressive work by the students is still in motion.. “A student intern at Gustavus has been a board member of the Southcentral Clean Energy Council for the past year. Student involvement with the St. Peter City Council and associated committees will continue with a focus on environmental sustainability aspects. Also, students will continue to participate in the Bike/Walk St. Peter group and they are continuing to work with the city on Green Step Cities projects.” Way to go, Gusties!

Bike Local, Shop Local — Developing a Bicycle Incentive Program

How does a small town in Southwest Minnesota get more people to walk and bike to work? Hint: it involves networking, local businesses, juice, and a CERTs Seed Grant!  Matt Skaret, a representative of the City of Jackson (pop. 3,300+), joins us, authoring the story himself!

From Skarett:

The Project

Our “Bicycle Business Incentive Program” project provided us an opportunity to engage with businesses, promote and encourage bicycling and walking as alternative forms of transportation, and develop relationships with downtown businesses. Key accomplishments included meeting with the Jackson Chamber of Commerce to identify business prospects; partnering with KKOJ Radio and the Jackson County Pilot to educate them and the public about our project and alternative transportation usage; networking with other communities in Minnesota that have bicycle incentive programs; developing relationships with MnWest College administration; developing relationships with businesses and assessing interest in bicycle friendly business initiative; and hosting our annual Bike Month event.


Focus Area

Our project focused specifically on the City of Jackson. We worked with twelve businesses to reach the residents who shop downtown locally. Businesses who opted to participate in our incentive program are now able to have their business on the National Bike Benefits Map. This means increased bike/foot traffic, and participating customers are able to receive discounts at these businesses when they walk or bicycle to the business.

Our project team promoted this project through KKOJ Radio's free FYI program called the “Morning Juice” in January 2022 and May 2022. We also partnered with KKOJ Radio to develop/run PSAs about the project in March, May, July, and November 2022. The Jackson Chamber of Commerce shared information about our project via their weekly e-newsletter and through various Facebook and website pages including the City of Jackson, DVHHS Public Health, and the Trails Committee.

We hope this grant will help us gain better results with our Bicycle Friendly Community status moving forward and encourage more businesses to participate or become bicycle friendly.


–  Matt Skaret, City of Jackson

And… COVID-19

While our project is unique, our timing might not have been the best because COVID-19 has impacted many of the downtown Jackson businesses over the past two years. This made it challenging to get more businesses interested in this project and being able to offer additional discounts. 


A bipedal future
This program was a seed that we anticipate will sprout additional business participation and growth in the future. This project is not a “one and done.” We believe it will continue to grow!

Note: Although this project did not have an e-bike focus, Luke Ewald with Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) of Cottonwood-Jackson-Nobles Counties is seeing an uptick in usage. “Seniors are probably the most noticeable cohort, followed by individuals who might have a cognitive or mobility impairment which makes it easier to get around using a throttle-based e-bike or traditional pedal engaged e-bike.” 


Clean Energy Focus: Encourage bicycling for transportation

Southwest and West Central CERT Seed Grants: $10,800 total

Other Funds Leveraged: UMM Office of Sustainability, private business (RFC) volunteer time, Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP)

Energy Saved/Electrified Each Year: 25 gallons of gasoline avoided and 14 kWh used for charging (WC projects)

People Involved and Reached: 10,727



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