E-Bikes Have Finally Arrived in the Bluebikes Bike Share System

On Wednesday, December 20th, 60 electric pedal-assist bicycles were officially added to the Bluebikes bike share system. By the end of January, the goal is to have 750 electric pedal-assist bicycles in addition to the 4,000 non-electric bicycles already in the system. These e-bikes have been a long time coming for the Bluebikes system, MassBike staff and local advocates attended a small launch to test ride a few bikes before they officially joined the system.

The use of electric bike share bikes will come at an additional cost to riders. For Bluebikes members, it will cost an extra 10 cents per minute of your ride. Income-eligible riders enrolled in the discount fare program will pay 7 cents per minute. Those without a membership will pay an additional 25 cents per minute. This pricing structure is on par with other Lyft-operated bike share programs across the country.

The bikes are a little different than the non-electric bikes in the system. According to StreetsblogMASS, “There's also no gearshift on the new bikes. Instead, the electric motor detects how hard you're pedaling, and kicks in with extra power on hills.

A Bluebikes spokesperson at Wednesday's launch event told StreetsblogMASS that the new bikes have swappable batteries and wireless communications that can alert operators when they need a fresh battery.”

MassBike has been advocating for the inclusion of electric pedal-assist bikes in the Bluebikes system for several years, including the recent legislation that defines e-bikes statewide. The implementation of e-bikes in the bike share systems makes it an even more valuable transportation option for the community.

MassBike is committed to working with municipalities to provide education for e-bike share riders, to ensure all bicyclists are riding safely. Bluebikes' recent blog about the e-bikes shared some suggestions on how to ride safely:

  • Check your speed. Adjust your riding speed to match the situation. Take extra care and caution around others, especially when approaching busy intersections, riding in narrow bike lanes, or riding close to parked cars. Remember, there’s a speed limit on all ebikes.
  • Stick to lanes. Unlike regular pedal bikes, ebikes aren’t permitted on sidewalks. Be sure to plan your route so you stick to designated bike lanes or roads.
  • Share the path. While ebikes are generally welcome on multi-use paths, it’s important to share the path responsibly and be mindful of pedestrians and slower riders. Give them plenty of space and always pay attention to what's happening around you.

Previously, the ValleyBike system in the Connecticut River Valley provided electric pedal-assist bikes for riders. They saw good ridership numbers, but the system is currently shut down due to their operator, Bewegen, ceasing operations. A Request for Proposals for a new operator is in the works and the partner communities have been seeking additional funding to re-start the system. MassBike has been working with Massachusetts legislators and advocating for additional funding for bike share. MassBike sees bike share, especially e-bike share, as a valuable part of our transportation system in the Commonwealth and wants to expand access to riders throughout Massachusetts.

We are looking forward to seeing the Bluebikes ridership data that is to come. Based on our experience with our Worcester E-Bike Program and the ridership numbers seen from other systems with e-bike share across the country, we expect strong ridership. If you’ve taken a trip with a new Bluebikes e-bike, let us know about your experience in the comments.

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