“In a rural community, we often have barriers towards public types of transportation, unlike bigger cities that have bus systems,” said Sandy Engle, the economic development director for Fort Morgan. “This has the ability to give that type of transportation to 30 people.”

Fort Morgan’s economy revolves around agriculture. Many of its 11,400 residents live in rural areas away from amenities and their jobs.  According to a survey from the city of Fort Morgan, 10% of the town’s residentsdo not have a vehicle due to cost barriers. Many who don’t have reliable transit still have to work several miles away and walk long distances through harsh temperatures, Engle said. Though 30 e-bikes may not remedy the issue for all who need transportation, Engle knows these 30 e-bikes are better than the status quo.R

Richard Lapp, owner of Bicycle Adventure in Fort Morgan, works on electric bicycles for those in the city. The rural area just received 30 free e-bikes for low-income college students and essential workers.

“This is a chance for people that maybe don’t own a car or have never considered really being able to enjoy the outdoors in a leisure type of fashion,” Engle said.

Those wanting a bike completed an application with questions about income, geographic location and transportation needs. Applicants with the greatest need will receive their bikes on Sept. 28. 

Richard Lapp, owner of Bicycle Adventure  Fort Morgan’s only bike shop — said e-bikes make riding about 50% easier than a traditional bike. Users still have to pedal, but a motor kicks in once they begin pedaling and stops when they do. 

“One of the benefits of having an e-bike is you get more exercise, and being in shape and being conditioned is a big part of having a healthy life,” Lapp said. “I would say the biggest benefit is your health.”

Lapp is 69 years old and said riding a standard bicycle has gotten much more difficult with age. He’s hopeful that e-bikes will help older folks, those with disabilities and anyone else who struggles to ride a generic bicycle.

“The older you get, the more work it is to ride a bike, and having an e-bike takes away that work and makes it very pleasurable,” Lapp said. “I think e-biking can make biking way more enjoyable.”

Engle and Lapp said they’re also hopeful that e-bikes can be practical in this small, farm-centric community because of the user’s ability to ride long distances without feeling worn out.

“An e-bike on country roads will make things more enjoyable,” Lapp said. “Fort Morgan is a small, agricultural community that’s full of big ideas, and this is a big idea.”

The state awarded bikes to eight communities across the state after the state legislature passed the Can-Do Colorado e-bike Pilot Program in the 2022 session. Grand Junction, Cortez, Routt County, Garfield County, Fort Morgan, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Boulder were all recipients, either through city governments or local nonprofits. Municipalities across the state are also awarding rebates for e-bikes. 

Sarah Thorne, a senior program manager at the Colorado Energy Office, said the program’s goal was to ensure geographic diversity among those who got access to e-bikes and spread a more environmentally friendly option statewide.

“The Eastern side of the state tends to be overlooked when we do these grants, so we’re really excited to have them on board,” Thorne said. “Your impact on the environment is significantly lower on an e-bike.”

Alison Berg is a reporter for Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach Alison at [email protected].

Julio Sandoval is the senior photojournalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at [email protected].

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