Prepare for police officers on e-bikes.
The Town Council recently decided to purchase six electric bicycles for town employees to move around Jackson. The Jackson Police Department, Public Works Department and Town Hall will each receive two bikes, with the goal of making patrols and short trips easier and more energy efficient.
“These bikes really blend in with a lot of the initiatives and goals that the community has set,” said Public Works Interim Director Johnny Ziem, “and that we have set internally.”
Ziem has selected a model, the RadWagon, and plans to purchase the six as soon as the council approves the invoice at its Monday meeting. They usually cost $1,600 each, but, because of the bulk order, the town will pay $1,400 per bike. The town will buy two saddle bags per bike, because employees often carry paperwork and equipment.
Police carry about 40 pounds on bike patrol, making a standard 12-hour shift strenuous, Jackson Police Chief Todd Smith said. He said that riding westbound on Snow King avenue is no challenge, but that riding eastbound, the route is all uphill.
“One call for service down at the Virginian is one thing,” he said. “But two or three on the south end of town will exhaust you.”
Smith said the electric bikes would allow officers to patrol a wider area without worrying about being unable to return to their car quickly. He said bikes also make officers more approachable and allow them to see and smell things they might miss from a car.
The e-bikes will also help town employees who have to make several trips throughout the day. For example, the Planning Department could use them for meetings and building checks, while Public Works could use them for START bus maintenance pickups.
Many employees drive cars for those purposes, and as the town seeks to reduce traffic and single-occupant vehicle trips, Public Information Officer Carl Pelletier said. This mode of transportation is a way to promote sustainability.
“Doing it with an e-bike is kind of putting our money where our mouth is,” he said.
Ziem said it’s difficult to calculate how much money the town could save on fuel costs, but it will be able to track e-bike usage, and based on those numbers determine the savings. This will also help the town decide whether to invest more in the program.
“It might be a little bit slow at first, as with any new thing that’s introduced,” he said. “But the more people get used to it and the more it becomes a second-nature thing … I think it’ll be good.”
At a recent Town Council workshop, Councilor Jim Stanford suggested internal policies that encourage using e-bikes before cars.
Ziem replied that across the town’s departments, there is already a culture of biking to some extent. Officials could build on this culture, incentivizing electric bike use by showing staffers it is “productive and fun,” he said. Ziem is hopeful the e-bikes will appeal to many employees.
“It’s similar to when we bought our first hybrid vehicle,” he said. “Like, who was going to use the hybrid vehicle? And now we’re buying all electric vehicles. It’s kind of a step-by-step thing.”