Monday, June 13, 2011 | 1:55 a.m.
Instead of using a car for short trips, meetings or lunch runs, employees at some downtown government agencies are getting electric bikes to use instead.
The Regional Transportation Commission bought 25 of the e-bikes in November with money from a federal grant through the Nevada Department of Transportation.
The bikes are being distributed to government agencies for employee use. They’re already in place at the RTC’s main offices, the Bonneville Transit Center, the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation office, the Las Vegas Valley Water District and at the Clark County Air Quality and Environmental Management office.
This week, Las Vegas City Hall will be getting five of the bikes.
“We’re reducing vehicle trips within a two-mile proximity of our building by encouraging employees to use the e-bikes when they have to go to meetings or they’re going to lunch or anything that would normally require a vehicle trip,” RTC Deputy General Manager Tina Quigley said.
As part of the program, the RTC is training the employees who will use the bikes.
“We can’t just give you a bike. We need to make sure you are familiar with the rules of the road and know how to ride a bike,” Quigley said.
The e-bikes look and ride like regular bicycles but have small batteries over the back tires, which provide peddle-assist power, making the bike a little easier to peddle.
“It’s fun,” Quigley said. “The people who have trained and are riding regularly love it.”
One employee hadn’t used a bike in more than 20 years before the program began, but since has ridden nearly every day between the RTC offices and the Bonneville Transit Center.
RTC spokeswoman Angela Torres said even with the summer heat, some employees will still prefer the four-minute bike ride between the RTC and transit center, rather than driving.
“I will take a bike and sweat it out,” she said. “I will chose to ride in the 100-degree heat to the Bonneville Transit Center rather than give up my parking space.”
In addition to preserving parking spaces, the program helps employees be healthier and reduces vehicle pollution, the RTC said.
The $400,000 grant also paid for bike lockers and the training program, but about 65 percent of the money went to road enhancements, including adding or improving bike lanes to some downtown streets.
The RTC is tracking how the bikes are used and reports the data quarterly to the federal government as part of the grant. RTC employees traveled about 1,000 miles on the bikes in six months, Quigley said.
If the program continues to show success, the RTC eventually hopes to develop a similar program for private companies so other downtown workers can use the bikes.
“I think that’s our dream, that we can extend the program beyond the public sector to the private sector,” Quigley said.