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Portland State researcher seeks subjects for first of its kind electric bike study

Posted by on March 13th, 2020 at 3:31 pm

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

“E-bikes are the future!” That’s what Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone proclaimed at a forum earlier this week. Iannarone is bullish on e-bikes not just because she’s an expert on innovative transportation solutions (thanks in part to her work at First Stop Portland), but because she rides an e-bike herself.

Many that ride e-bikes quickly become evangelists like Iannarone and start using words like “transformational” and “revolution”.

Now a Portland State University research project wants to add more science to back up all the excitement. And they’re looking for subjects.

PSU’s Transportation Research and Education Center is already known for its e-bike research. But a new study from researcher John MacArthur will take things even further. Working with a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, MacArthur and his colleagues have created an app and custom dongle that will track travel behaviors of local e-bike users.

“E-bikes are a new mode of transportation that could substantially improve efficiency in the transportation system if adopted as substitutes for cars,” reads the study website.

With an app connected to the dongle, the study aims to collect passive data from participants and, “Using machine learning algorithms, create the largest and richest dataset to support the growth of e-bike use as a transportation option.”


Screenshot from the app.

Reached via email yesterday, MacArthur shared that, “This is the first US study to gather real-time travel data from e-bike users.” Specifically, MacArthur added, “We are trying to understand how people use their e-bikes and what modes they are replacing their trips with the e-bike.” The data will be used to better understand the potential of for e-bikes to reduce driving trips.

PSU is collaborating with researchers at University of Tennessee and University of Pittsburgh. They hope to enroll over 100 people nationwide to take part in the study. The only catch is that the study is currently open only to people whose bikes are equipped with Bosch motors and who use an iPhone. Asked about that limitation, MacArthur said Bosch is a partner on NSF grant and, given the relatively small size of the study, it would add too much complexity to make the dongle work on multiple motor platforms.

If your bike and phone fit the bill and you want to be involved, learn more and sign up at the study website.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and
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10 thoughts on “Portland State researcher seeks subjects for first of its kind electric bike study”

  1. Avatar Fred says:

    How on earth would I know if my e-bike is equipped with a Bosch motor? Is it labeled somewhere?

    1. Avatar Rider says:

      Yes, it will be clearly labeled Bosch on the motor, battery, and display unit.

    2. If you have a mid-drive motor, Bosch is very popular, but I don’t believe they make any hub-driven motors.

    3. Avatar Jason says:

      If you have a production bike, search for it on the manufacturers website. You can read the specs there. Also, the Bosch motor is really loud, so if people look over their shoulder before you pass them, you have a Bosch. 😀

  2. Avatar Zach says:

    They should take all of the money and labor for the study and use it to build protected bike lanes.

    1. If this study shows what I think it will show, more money for protected bike lanes will be found, much more than the cost of the study.

    2. NSF grant money has restrictions, as most grants do.

  3. Avatar Zymurgist says:

    They should take all of the money and labor for the study and use it to build protected bike lanes.Recommended 3

    Yeah but, where do you build them? Oh, I know let’s do a study.

  4. Avatar jayson says:

    “Heh, heh. He said ‘dongle.’”

  5. Avatar Jason says:

    Don’t bother if you have Bosch / Purion. They are already full up or it’s not compatible.

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