E-bikes coming to Pgh’s Healthy Ride bike share thanks to grant from Heinz Endowments

By: - May 29, 2021 6:30 am

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper).

By Ryan Deto

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh’s bike share, “Healthy Ride,” has seen a lot of success over the years, with record-breaking ridership last year and an expanding network. But one thing that has always been an impediment for riders are Pittsburgh’s hills. Healthy Ride bikes are heavy, and data shows that stations at the top of hills empty out much quicker than the bottom of hills.

But local charity the Heinz Endowments wants to help get bike share riders up those hills. Announced on May 25, Heinz Endowments awarded $750,000 to Healthy Ride Bike Share “to assist its transition to electric-assist bicycles.”

Electric-assist bicycles, or e-bikes, have been growing in popularity. They function like normal bicycles, except that a small electric motor provides peddlers an extra boost that can help some riders reach speeds of 20 mph on flat-ground, or make it a breeze to climb a hill.

Healthy Ride has been wanting to introduce e-bikes to its fleet since at least 2019. And Healthy Ride director David White told WESA-FM that the goal is to replace about 325 regular bikes with e-bikes. The current fleet is made up of about 625 bikes across more than 100 stations.

“That just feels sort of like you have a superpower when you’re going up hills,” White told WESA-FM about the potential of e-bikes.

The Endowments’ support is joined by funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the Hillman Foundation and the economic development nonprofit Bridgeway Capital, which will match a $1.6 million state grant, according to a press release. The plan also includes installing a series of new solar-powered charging stations.

“Pittsburgh’s bike share system has been a valued lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing large increases in ridership as a safe and healthy alternative form of transportation,” Endowments Sustainability Senior Program Officer Matt Barron said. “The program is now continuing the momentum built over the past several years with a full transition to electric-assist bicycles, increasing accessibility to people of all age ranges and abilities. We know that physical mobility is a leading indicator of economic mobility, and we are proud to support the growth and improvement of Pittsburgh’s bike share system.”

The grant to Healthy Ride is part of $10 million in grants bestowed by Heinz Endowments as part of its “ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life for all residents in the Pittsburgh region.”

Grants also were given to upgrade the historic New Granada Theater in the Hill District, continue support of the Hazelwood Green development, and COVID-relief support to several local organizations.

Ryan Deto is a reporter for Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared

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