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Encinitas endorses Pedal Ahead’s e-bike program for low-income people

The downtown Encinitas sign.
(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Council also decides to apply for federal grant for Verdi Avenue railroad undercrossing

An organization that distributes e-bikes to low-income people can expand into Encinitas, the City Council decided Wednesday, Sept. 28.

“I think this is a fantastic program,” Councilmember Tony Kranz said before the vote. “Mobility is one of the most important parts of getting ahead in life.”

Councilmember Joy Lyndes said the nonprofit running the program — Pedal Ahead — had a fine reputation and the bike distribution program was “a good fit” for Encinitas, while Councilmember Joe Mosca said the soaring cost of gasoline will make this very attractive to low-income people, who are the hardest hit by the recent fuel price increases.

Plans call for Pedal Ahead to distribute 15 to 25 e-bikes to “qualified” Encinitas residents — an annual income of less than $49,000 is expected to be part of the selection criteria. In addition to providing the bikes and picking the successful applicants, Pedal Ahead will offer safety trainings and other services in Encinitas, a city staff report states.

“Pedal Ahead’s mission is to create new lifestyles through socially conscious transportation,” the report states. “Pedal Ahead provides e-bikes to enhance quality of life opportunities for participants who would normally not have the financial means nor exposure to alternative transportation benefits.”

For its part, Encinitas will provide publicity about the program and invite Pedal Ahead representatives to city transportation meetings and events, under the terms of the newly approved memorandum. The council voted 3-0, with Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Councilmember Kellie Hinze absent, to approve the memorandum.

There will be no cost to the city to participate, the city staff report states.

Established by San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and the Rider Safety Visibility organization in 2020, Pedal Ahead has distributed hundred of e-bikes in San Diego County and it’s about to expand to other parts of California. The state’s Air Resources Board has recently selected the organization to handle a statewide e-bike program and that program “is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2023,” the state board notes on its web site.

The state is backing the program with the goal of reducing car trips, air pollution and traffic congestion, the board’s web site states.

Pedal Ahead initially loans its bikes to program participants and the riders can gain ownership of them after participating in the program for two years, the Rider Safety Visibility organization states on its web site. GPS technology installed on the e-bikes allows the Pedal Ahead to track how the bikes are used and the organization also surveys riders. That information helps cities design programs, services and transportation projects, such as bike lanes, the organization states.

In other action Wednesday, Sept. 28, council members approved a city staff request to apply for a federal grant to help fund what’s expected to be a $15 million railroad under crossing at Verdi Avenue. Encinitas has tried twice to gain funding for the project through what’s known as the CRISI program — the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program — but may have better luck with this new federal infrastructure grant program, city employees said.

The request to apply for the grant angered nine public speakers, including several City Council candidates, who said the city’s northern Leucadia area ought to be the top priority of the city’s next railroad under crossing, not Verdi Avenue in Cardiff.

“What is your excuse to continue ignoring Leucadia?” asked mayoral candidate Michael “Myekah” Blobe.

City engineering department employees said they had picked the Cardiff project for the federal grant application because it was “shovel ready” — the city’s already spent $2 million on design work and other project needs. Projects for the Leucadia region, including a railroad quiet zone and pedestrian crossing point, are in the works, but are likely two years away from being at the point that the Cardiff project is now, they said.


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