After months of community engagement and outreach, over 600 applications from interested Berkeley residents were submitted. Recipients were selected via lottery system this past March. To qualify, participants submitted documentation showing that they were 1) a Berkeley resident, 2) over 18 years of age, and 3) had a household income of less than 80% of the area median income (AMI) for Alameda County or currently participate in an income-qualified program such as SNAP, PG&E CARE, or Medicaid. Participants also were required to submit photo documentation of secure bike storage at their residences.
Hanne Williams-Baron (she/her) is one of 56 recipients of electric bikes that were distributed through the Berkeley E-Bike Equity Project (BEEP). Hanne first learned about the program by browsing local news on Twitter.
As someone reintroducing biking into her life after many years, she was immediately captivated by the idea of e-bikes. “I was interested in e-bikes because they’re known for providing high levels of accessibility and delight for fat folks.” Hanne saw an opportunity to find a mode of transport and joyful movement that would be accessible to her.
Hanne said the process of applying for the e-bike was straightforward. She filled out the application form, submitted the necessary income materials, and soon received the wonderful news that she had been waitlisted and then chosen as a program recipient.
Hanne has been a clean mobility champion by using public transportation and hitching rides with friends before getting the e-bike. However, since receiving her e-bike, she envisions it becoming her primary mode of transportation. She describes her first ride as a dream come true, as she explored the Berkeley Marina bike path with sheer delight. Feeling the wind rush through her hair, Hanne couldn't help but laugh, exhilarated by the speed and fun. With the guidance of Hannah at Waterside Workshops [GRID Alternatives Bay Area partner], Hanne's bike was customized with a wider seat, ensuring optimal comfort.
Reflecting on her journey, Hanne acknowledges the challenges she has faced as a fat biker, particularly in finding resources and a community of individuals who share her experience. “Honestly, the world makes it really hard for fat people to do anything fun that involves moving our bodies in public,” Hanne said. Fat people often encounter barriers in the world of biking, including weight limits on bike frames and social stigma. However, she remains determined to break those barriers “I have to remind myself that I belong in the bike community and that anything that makes movement more accessible is something to celebrate.”
Hanne emphasizes the importance of designing urban roads that are safe, inclusive, and accessible for all, shedding light on the systemic issues that contribute to safety concerns for bike riders, particularly in historically marginalized neighborhoods.
For the future, Hanne sees herself using the e-bike long-term, relishing in the freedom and possibilities that clean mobility offers. She supports the expansion of the program, believing that everyone who desires to ride an e-bike should have access to one. Furthermore, she would like more educational opportunities for beginner adult riders.
We extend our deepest gratitude to Waterside Workshops, and Hanne for sharing her remarkable journey. We thank you for embodying the spirit of resilience and empowerment as envisioned by the offerings in our GRID BA Clean Mobility programs.
Hanne shared her experience with The Daily Cal(UC Berkeley’s student newspaper).