The Berkeley E-Bike Equity Project (BEEP) Impact

For Bay Area resident Hanne Williams-Barron, receiving an electric-bicycle meant reconnecting with movement, improving her confidence, and transit freedom.

Hanne is a recipient of one of GRID Bay Area’s Micro mobility programs, and as a result of her experience, she now is a wholehearted advocate for “initiatives that champion mobility justice and accessibility for all,” she said.

Before receiving the e-bike, she was afraid and anxious at the idea of cycling due to a cycling accident when she was younger.

Hanne now is a self-proclaimed “fat activist,” and in that role, she is committed to fostering comfort, confidence, and safety within one's body. After working with a therapist, Hanne wanted to alter her relationship with movement and infuse it with positivity and joy. In particular, she hoped to reignite her relationship with cycling, but she wasn’t sure how to afford purchasing a bicycle. However, she luckily won a free electric bike through the Berkeley E-Bike Equity Project (BEEP), a city-funded program that looked to help low-income Berkeley residents get access to electric bikes.

Hanne felt mixed feelings of happiness and nervousness upon receiving her bike. Riding again after so long felt daunting, compounded by concerns about bike accessibility for a larger body, Williams said. However, after some research, she found a supportive community of plus-sized cyclists who shared invaluable insights about bikes built to accommodate different body sizes.

Hanne recall how nerve-wracking her first ride was, but with the encouragement of supportive friends and mentors, Hanne conquered her fear. In particular, Hannah Otto, Outdoor Programs Manager & Bike Shop Project Manager from Waterside Workshops, has been a source of unwavering support.

The program coordinators addressed Hanne’s concerns about bike safety for a larger body, assured her that the bike was chosen specifically for her, and offered ongoing checkups and support. They also taught Hanne about how to properly charge the bike’s battery and other bike maintenance tasks.  “Thankfully, the bike has been a source of joy without any major problems so far.” Hanne said.

From grocery runs to leisure rides, each outing on her bike feels like a celebration. “This bike has become more than just a mode of transport; it's a symbol of agency, independence, and freedom,” Hanne said.

Hanne hopes that the Berkeley E-Bike Equity Project expands, knowing that such programs are vital for low-income individuals and contribute to sustainable and community-driven modes of transportation.

“This program, this bike, has been the highlight of my year, if not my life,” Hanne said.