SALT LAKE CITY — Parker Winchester's busy days begin early and require a lot of walking on the University of Utah campus.
A preschool teacher and elementary education major, she says she walks two or three miles on the large campus between her classes each day.
"It does take me a while to get around," she explained.
Winchester was one of many students, professors and community members test-riding e-bikes on campus Wednesday as part of the school's U. Bike Electric program, which started on March 26 and will run through May 26.
Through the program, which is a partnership between the university and Utah Clean Energy, anyone affiliated with the U. can sign up to receive a discount on an e-bike.
An e-bike looks like a traditional bicycle. However, it has three things a regular bicycle doesn't: a motor, battery and drivetrain, making it easier to ride up hills or against wind, according to manufacturer Evelo Electric Bicycles.
"An electric bicycle is a great substitute … even if you're not somebody that feels confident enough to cycle every day, it's got enough power that it can kind of help you get where you're going quickly," said Liz Ivkovich, communications manager for the U. sustainability office.
Dealerships participating in the U. Bike Electric program include Bingham Cyclery, Contender Bicycles, ESpokes, Guthrie Bicycles and Trek Bicycles.
The university isn't making money on the program, she said, but the dealers are able to offer a "really significant discount" with enough people buying the bicycles at the same time. After signing up for the discount, people can visit the participating dealerships to purchase an e-bike of their choice. The different options range in price from about $1,500 to $6,000. The discounts range from about $250 to $2,000 off, according to the U. Bike Electric website.
So far, 500 people have signed up to receive discounts, Ivkovich said.
"Fifty percent of Salt Lake's urban air emissions come from tailpipes, so we're trying to help people have access to ways to get out of their car that are feasible," Ivkovich said.
After test-riding an e-bike on campus, Winchester said she will consider purchasing one — if she can save up the money.
"Riding a bike is something that you know how to do, so you don't have to relearn something. But it's also practical 'cause it can get you somewhere in a shorter period of time with less effort, so I like that aspect of it," she said.
"You don't have to be really fit to get one of these. You can bike up hills at the same pace, to get where you need to be," she explained, adding that riding the bike almost felt "effortless."
If she had an e-bike, she could save time she usually spends walking, she said.
Alan Morris, a professor of medicine at the U., was another cyclist out testing e-bikes.
He says he bought one in November and uses it to get to work.
"It extends your range, going up the hill to get to the university, I don't have to be concerned about the big hill climb. So I wind up biking under circumstances that would preclude me biking if I was on a regular bike," he explained.
The university has done community purchasing programs for a few years now, including U. Drive Electric and U. Community Solar. But the electric bicycle program has been the most popular so far, according to Ginger Cannon, active transportation manager for the school.
Quite a few people have already purchased bikes through the program, she said.Comment on this story
"They're wonderful for the very hilly terrain we have along the Wasatch Front. They're great if you're going longer distances. Less effort. You arrive a little more fresh when you're using them," Cannon added.
Anyone who's "ever stepped on the university campus" is eligible for the discount. "It's really our entire region that's available for these discounts," she said.
Community members can see the discounts offered on different e-bikes and sign up on the program's website, utahev.org/about-u-bike-electric.