Not quite bike, not quite scooter, certainly not car – the electric bicycle has had a hard time winning fans. But now that City Car Share in San Fran is adding e-bikes to its lineup, perhaps these bikes will get the street cred they deserve.
Through a research grant, CityCar Share will team up with the University of California, Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center to see how many car share members would (1) use bikes instead of cars and (2) why. San Francisco is a hilly place, so regular bikes don’t have the same appeal as they do in the flatlands. As reported in the New York Times, City Car Share plans to roll out 45 bikes in the second half of this year and 45 more by the end of 2013. Rates will be 50-70% of hourly car rental pricing, though you have to return the bike to the original pick-up space. It also looks like they will rent “electric bike trailers.” Bling!
Sydney Australia is also integrating e-bikes into their plans. The Sydney Cycle Strategy electric bicycles with less than 200 watts of power on the City’s cycle paths. Las Vegas instituted e-bike share for city workers. And for real bling, check this out - the Yike Bike
There are upsides and downsides to e-bikes:
- Since the most powerful way to increase biking is the presence of bicyclists, e-bikes certainly send these signals.
- They can be a nice fit for aging boomers who need a little “pedal assist.”
- Bikes take up a fraction of parking that cars do – even tiny cars.
- E-bikes can bridge those nagging suburban distances that are too far to bike - especially with cargo and groceries.
- For the Sunbelt, e-bikes can help commutes hit that sweet spot where the forehead is glistening, but not dripping, with sweat.
- Cost – E-bikes are still about double or triple the price of a really good hybrid.
- The motorized aspect will still pose a conundrum on trails designed for pure cycling.
- Cities still need to do an awesome job at building and maintaining infrastructure for bike lanes, access, and bike parking.
- Crashes - no doubt.
The jury’s still out
- Battery life and recharge stations.
- License and registration – Yes? No?
If DOT and the Transportation Sustainability Center are taking names on who wants to be studied next, I’ll throw Sarasota’s name into the hat. We don’t have car share, but we are ideal for an e-bike sharing network. We are flat and sometimes hot. We have lots of tourists and lots of suburbs separated from shopping, but with surprisingly good paths and lanes. By the way - Sarasota has an electric bike dealer at 3604 South Osprey - check them out (they are next to Yuppy Puppy and Shakespeare's just south of Siesta Drive)