Denver Bike Sharing Program Launches Electric Bike Pilot Today
B-cycle, Denver’s bike sharing nonprofit, rolled out nine new electric bicycles for testing today at Union Station, and one rider came away with a jolt of excitement.
“It was quiet. It was easy. And it was fast,” said Mike Biere after taking an e-bike for a test ride. He has been riding B-cycle’s non-motorized bikes since the program launched in April of 2010 and now he says there is one less excuse to hop into his car. “Now, even if I’m lazy, I can go on a bike.”
B-cycle hopes that the electric bikes, which make cycling faster and easier, will attract more riders, especially when compared to the heavy bikes the organization offers today. And with most B-cycle docks concentrated around downtown, the new bikes could boost the number of workers who bike to work, which reached nine percent last year, a 36 percent increase since 2016, according to the Downtown Denver Partnership’s 2018 commuter survey.
If the pilot program is successful, B-cycle could start rolling out the bikes alongside its fleet of 700 non-motorized bikes early next year. But first, riders are finding kinks that need to be worked out, including Biere.
“The only glitch was ending my ride,” he said. Using the Drop Mobility mobile app, he was not allowed to return the bike. A few minutes later, B-cycle staff had fixed the problem.
Jonathan Fertig, a local bike advocate, commented on Twitter that the bike’s design may not hold up well against vandals.
“All that exposed cabling won’t cut it (get it) for a municipal fleet, and the hubs don’t have locking nuts (easy enough to rectify),” he wrote. “So I don’t think this iteration is 100% ready for full-scale deployment in the city, but it’s close …”
Frame-mounted front basket
Single speed rear hub motor
Drum brakes F&R
Foam-filled (ie, not pneumatic) tires pic.twitter.com/H4koTdLdF7
— Jonathan Fertig (@rightlegpegged) September 16, 2019
This is the type of feedback B-cycle is looking for. Over the next month, the organization’s staff will allow riders to test out the bikes at times and locations listed on its website.
The bikes come from the Toronto-based company Drop Mobility, whose electric bikes and scooters are in use in approximately half a dozen places, including Kansas City and the Canadian cities of Kingston and Waterloo. The company will provide up to 15 bikes for B-cycle’s pilot at no charge.
If the e-bikes become a regular part of B-cycle’s fleet, they will need to be checked out and returned to the program’s 89 docking stations. B-cycle’s current docks do not charge the bikes. But the bike is designed to operate without docks and could go dockless in Denver if the city updates its rules.
“We could make these dockless,” said Mike Pletsch, who runs B-cycle. “However Denver rolls out regulations on dockless, by all means, we would consider it.”
B-cycle is likely to replace its entire fleet of bikes and docking stations soon. As the organization nears its 10th anniversary, many need to be replaced.
B-cycle passholders and members of the 5280 program can try the e-bikes at no charge. Non-passholders can enter the code 5280EBIKE in the Drop Mobility app for two free rides.
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