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Big Idea-Chris Cherry

Chris CherryChris Cherry has made UT home to an automated electric bicycle (e-bike) sharing system. The civil and environmental engineering assistant professor started the pilot program as a subject of an ongoing research study.

He got the idea after arriving in Kunming, China, on a research grant in 2005 and noticing the city was buzzing with e-bikes. He wanted to know why e-bikes were not as popular in the US and if a sharing system could work. He recruited the help of Stacy Worley and David Smith from biosystems engineering to build the system.

It was launched in the fall of 2011 on Presidential Court. A second system on the Agriculture Campus is expected to launch this spring.

An electric bicycle is a bike with an attached motor which activates when pedaling gets more difficult for the rider. The sharing station consists of an integrated bike rack with a battery-charging kiosk. The system is fully automated—users swipe their university ID cards to check out and return bikes to the station when finished. The pilot test is free to subscribers within the UT community.

The e-bike is heralded as an environmentally-friendly alternative to driving. Cherry says e-bikes could help solve three related problems in the US: environmental degradation that impacts public health, quality of life and economic security; over-reliance on insecure energy; and a public health crisis of obesity related to inactivity.

If successful, the e-bike system could be adopted into a full-scale program at UT.