When her beloved home city of Chicago started to lock down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bosch associate, Beth Bond was concerned about basic needs like getting food to children in need. She is the mother of a child attending Chicago Public Schools and had observed how a large number of students relied on the free lunch programs. She also knew neighborhoods in the city were challenged with access to resources – something that would only be intensified by the pandemic lockdowns.
As a mobility expert versed in last-mile opportunities, Bond had an idea.
“I knew that cargo bikes can play a role in last-mile deliveries,” she said. “They also are practical from a maintenance perspective and social-distance friendly. I started making phone calls to the eBike team to understand how we as Bosch might be able to help.”
“We were seeing an increased interest in cargo eBikes and looking to continue developing opportunities in the logistics market,” Sheffield said. “We were also looking for ways to support local communities. So it didn’t take a lot of convincing.”
Sheffield got Bosch customers Tern and BCycle involved. Ultimately, they developed a pilot program to provide 36 eBikes, powered by Bosch batteries, to help local Chicago organizations with last-mile deliveries of food and supplies. The pilot program involved nine public agencies, community-based organizations and small businesses that service 44,000 families in the Chicago neighborhoods of Belmont-Craigin, Logan Square, North Lawndale, Englewood/Chatham, Bronzeville and Southshore.
Bond herself logged more than 150 miles around the city to test out the model. She checked out a Trek eBike from the and rode to distribution sites across the city to help haul items. Once the pilot was established, she personally worked with many of the organizations.
“I knew it was working when it became about more than just delivering things,” Bond said.
Many organizations named their eBikes, either choosing a landmark unique to their neighborhood or names of people who had been prominent in the community.
“We started to see that the eBike was a job to someone, the eBike was a pathway to a person riding again and the eBike was access to food for the day,” she said, noting that one of the food co-ops was able to hire someone to do the deliveries thanks to having the eBike available. At the end of the pilot, many of the organizations have opted to purchase or lease eBikes they were loaned.
The pilot launched in July and ran through September. The eBikes logged more than 5,000 miles delivering supplies that included food, diapers and personal protective equipment. They were also used in other ways such as community peace rides, youth-led tours, business services and neighborhood check-ins.
“To see our eBike product being used in a way that is so directly benefitting people is inspiring and the whole team has gotten a boost,” said Claudia Wasko, vice president and general manager, Bosch eBike Systems Americas.
The program also ties into the broader awareness campaign on the use of eBikes in North America.
“As a leader in the eBike space, we want to be open to these types of ideas that grow access to eBikes and use cases for them,” Sheffield said. “We’re grateful Beth came to us with the idea and we’re thinking about how we can do more things like this in the future.”