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Electric-bikes, or e-bikes, are increasing in popularity across the nation. As of early August 2019, 41 out of the 192 cities in the U.S. that have at least one bikeshare system had incorporated e-bikes. These bikes have a battery-powered “assist” feature that is activated when the rider begins to pedal. This feature simply makes pedaling easier, requiring users to exert less energy and travel longer distances. As the trend continues to grow, we frequently get asked if e-bikes are part of Biki’s long-term plan. So, we're providing a brief update to address any rumors and answer all your burning e-biki questions!
PBSC Urban Solutions, the manufacturer of Biki bikes and equipment for 33 other bikeshare systems across the globe, has released the E-FIT, an electric model of our FIT bike. The bike has successfully launched in Barcelona, Monaco, Buenos Aires and Santiago. PBSC has sent us a prototype to study and test and learn more about what introducing the E-FIT might mean for our riders and the Biki system. The bike is the same size frame as our standard Biki’s, but about 20-25 pounds heavier. It tops at 14mph and contains a high capacity battery that can be recharged directly at smart stations. A single charge will last up to 40 miles (70km).
Shared e-bikes have demonstrated that they get more people on bikes more often. They make riding a bike more accessible for older riders, those with longer commutes, and riders dealing with health issues, etc. For example, a rider who drives instead of Biki’s to work because their commute is too hilly, may finally be able to swap their car ride for an E-Biki trip. The E-Biki would increase our ability to expand into hilly neighborhoods of high-demand, such as Kaimuki. These E-Biki's would not replace our existing bikes, but would be integrated into the system to give riders another option.
In Madison, which now has an entirely electric fleet, "we've seen 1.5 to 4 times the ridership, depending on the day, compared to before," says Lisa Snyder, executive director of Madison BCycle.
"We found that 85% of the e-bike trips were made by non-regular users, only 15% were made by regular users. People tend to use e-bikes for longer trips, more trips are generated on weekends than on weekdays, and more trips are made in summer months."
"In the couple months since we've had them, our average daily check-out on an e-bike is 1.7, and the average of regular bikes is less than 1," says Malorie Sarsgard, assistant director of Fort Worth BCycle
Other than raising funds for such an introduction, the station planning and utility install will be the biggest hurdle. We would need to implement a new type of “smart station” that would be able to charge the E-Biki's and still be compatible with our existing bikes. Additionally, due to the greater weight of the bike and the required battery charge, our maintenance and rebalancing strategy would need to be altered. Before we get E-Biki's on the ground, the following would need to take place:
Yes! The E-Fit system is certified according to the most stringent safety and quality standards in the world. Although, electric bikes can travel at faster speeds, our E-Biki's would be set at a maximum top speed based on further research and coordination with the City. Also, the pedal assist feature can only be activated through pedaling. So, you don’t have to worry about the bike taking off while you’re at a red light.
As always, riders will be expected to obey cycling laws and ride cautiously, and helmets are recommended for safety.
So, to answer the electrification questions many riders have come to us about - no, we do not have immediate plans to introduce the E-Biki in 2020. However, we are open to the idea as a way to get more people out of their cars and on bikes. We still have a ways to go and will be sure to release any updates along the way.