Awesome “Lightweight and Electric Bikes Could Be Coming to Your Local Bikeshare System”

big think
via Big Think

“Dear PoPville,

I write part-time for Big Think and was contacted recently by a PR rep from PBSC Urban Solutions, the company that designs/supplies the bikes and stations used by Capital Bikeshare and other cities’ systems. They recently unveiled a new family of bicycle models that could be integrated into existing systems should the local company be interested in expanding. Included in this new set is an electric bicycle, which I imagine would be very enticing to folks who trek the various hills in town.

Not sure if local DC vehicle regulations would accept a motor-aided bike, but it certainly is interesting. I’ll reiterate that it’s not for certain that Capital Bikeshare would bring in the newer, lighter bikes — just that they now have the option. As a daily rider, I hope they make the move.”

24 Comment

  • This would be awesome but I think it could also add some logistical troubles. Would every Bikeshare member have access to these, or would you pay more for the ability to rent an electric bike? How hard would it be to find one if you wanted to rent one? If there are only, say, 20 of them around the system it seems like the odds are you wouldn’t always have one nearby when you wanted to use it. Maybe they will be getting a lot more but it seems like that would be expensive.

    right now i just want them to finally go through with their long-planned ~60 station expansion…been waiting on that for years now.

    • I hit “post comment” by accident. I meant to add that it’s worth exploring whether these things should be regulated differently than bikes. They can get going pretty fast, and the same idiocy and disregard for safety that bikers (I am a daily bike commuter) display on a regular basis is magnified by electric bikes. My frame of reference for this is a guy I see sometimes on Conn. Ave who rides an electric bike and blows through red lights and rides on sidewalks going 20mph.

      • I am guessing without a helmet, earbuds in both ears with music so loud it’s impossible to hear anything and generally using 1 hand to hold a cellphone? Yeah I see people like this ALL the time.

      • Would they really go that much faster than a normal bike downhill? Those things can go pretty fast. I think the idea of a motorized bike is pretty ridiculous, but it would actually be very useful for going uphill.

        • The short answer is “no.” They go pretty much as fast as any bike going downhill. The problem is when they’re on level ground or going uphill. You can’t tell that they’re an electric bike so a driver or pedestrian wouldn’t expect them to go fast.

  • DC1

    Technically since they have a motor, these can’t be used on bike lanes, sidewalks, etc. Since there is barely any rule enforcement on the bike lanes I’m pretty sure it won’t be an issue.

    • So I guess I can’t use it to get to work? I use the Mount Vernon trail to cross the river. I guess it’s a moot point since you’re technically not supposed to use Bikeshare for commuting anyway.

      • “since you’re technically not supposed to use Bikeshare for commuting” — really???

        • I believe that’s why the system was designed to charge extra after 30 minutes– not enough time to get to work unless your commute is super short. I was surprised the first time I heard that too (it’s been mentioned several times by commenters here) because I see a lot of people using the bikes during rush hour.

          • What? It’s expressly designed for commuting. I would guess 90% of daily users’ commute is less than 30 minutes. I think the 30+ minute charge is for tourists who tool around the Mall for hours on end.

          • Or you find a dock midway through your commute to check in and immediately back out – which is how I cover the 50 minute ride from Ballston to Logan Circle.

          • Or you can pay the $1.50 (if you’re a keyed member; $2 otherwise) surcharge for keeping the bike 30-60 minutes. Or pay a bit more past that if your commute is really that soul-crushingly long. This is still a way better deal than the gas/wear-tear and/or metrofare for a commute that long. And comparable in cost to a bus trip (and probably quicker, and better exercise).
            .
            I really don’t think anybody would say bikeshare wasn’t for commuting. It’s not a bike rental service; it’s meant for quick one-way trips. But commuting is an ideal use case. And having a trip that’s over 30 minutes is definitely not a reason to eschew bikeshare; just pay the extremely small and reasonable use fee.

      • Just depends on your kind of commute. I use it every day to get from Hill East to Penn Quarter and back. Have never incurred a usage fee.

  • The Copenhagen Bikeshare uses all electric bikes in their system – I used one for a couple hours to go explore that city’s amazing bike infrastructure last year. They also have integrated tablets on the bikes with GPS maps. Amazing. Not sure how it works, but there was a max speed that the electric assist would top off at, so you can’t actually use the motor to go all that fast.

  • There’s very few things more depressing than being 20+ miles into a ride out the W&OD and getting passed by some 65 year old woman pedaling in a leisurely manner on her motorized step-thru. When she first passes you it’s like this crushing ego-stab that you suck at everything, you are a weak POS, why are you slogging away at 16 mph into this headwind anyway. You only slightly recover when you see the giant tin can on her rear wheel and hear the whirring noise, but the damage has been done, you’re out of your element, and just want to go home.

  • Our hills aren’t that bad to need electric bikeshares – but perhaps in a city like Seattle or San Francisco.
    Sweet though!

    • I think these would be more useful if they had a large basket on the back. Then you could use it for activities that would be difficult on a bike, like hauling groceries. Or do they not have enough power for that?

    • Have you been across the river? I’ve seen Pennsyvania AV SE kill many a car. Most of the cyclist start walking their bikes about Branch AV.

  • I recall seeing something authoritative recently that e-bikes may use DC bike lanes but are restricted to ~15mph.

  • We may not be hilly like San Francisco or Seattle, but…when I was an AUD student I had two jobs. One of them required me to bike from M Street in Georgetown up Wisconsin Avenue to where I lived in Tenleytown, the other one from Dupont Circle up Massachusetts Avenue to the Cathedral and out Wisconsin to Tenleytown. I developed calves of death, but would have gladly settled for smaller calves for the use of an electric bike to get up those long, long hillsides!

  • Best. Idea. Ever.

    Bring on the electric bikes!

    If there are too many red tape hurdles, then at least make them more lightweight

  • This would be cool, but given the space constraints of the existing system I have a strong preference for making sure all bikes/docks are working and available. I’m already seeing more broken bikes and broken docks with the current system aging.
    .
    Less weight and an electric assist would be much lower on my priority list. If I wanted a Segway I’d use one. The current bike are fast enough and are built like tanks.

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