December 7, 2016 2 Comments
A month ago, Baltimore got its first bikeshare system, Bmorebikeshare, and ridership is already high. Forty percent of the fleet is made up of electric bikes that make it easier to go up hills, and as the system expands people are likely to want more of those.
The City of Baltimore has partnered with Bewegen Technologies to run the system, which cost $2.36 million to set up. Part of the contract includes operations by a company called Corps Logistics. With 22 stations (largely in the flat basin around the harbor) and 175 bikes, Bmorebikeshare has has generated almost 6,000 rides so far.
The system is designed to work for both residents and visitors who need to do everything from commute to run errands to just enjoying riding around. I would add that it’s also great for those who want to reach places where parking availability is tight.
Electric bikes are a hallmark of the system
Beyond being new, Bmorebikeshare stands out because it has North America’s largest fleet of bikes with an electric motor that helps you pedal (a technology known as pedal-assist-technology, or pedelec).
I tested the electric bikes on an uphill climb on the newly created Maryland Avenue protected bikeway, and it was amazing how helpful pedelec was. The extra giddy up made for a ton of fun whether on a hill or flat land.
But since Baltimore is a little like a funnel that generally slopes toward the harbor, the boost was particularly helpful when going uphill. The electric bikes will be a prerequisite for many users who seek higher altitude destinations such as Johns Hopkins University or Druid Hill Park or eventually Hampden and Morgan State University.
This spring, the system is set to grow to 50 stations with 500 bikes. And since many of the new stations will be uphill from where stations are concentrated now, the pedelecs will be in even more demand.
Is expanding the pedelec fleet actually doable?
Liz Cornish, Executive Director of Bikemore, Baltimore’s bicycling infrastructure and policy advocacy organization, said at Baltimore Greenway Trail Network meeting the pedal-assist bikes cost $1300 compared to $1000 for the regular bikes.
If the bikeshare expanded by another 500 bikes and they were 100% electric-assist, it would only be $150,000 more than an all regular bike purchase. This is not much money if the world of transportation expenditures.
Of course, bikes with pedelec may cost more to fix and maintain. But in a hilly city like Baltimore, splurging on the electric bikes to tilt the percentages of the fleet toward the pedelec bikes will likely make sense.
The best step forward would be for Bewegen to track which bikes are being used in order to get data on user-preference. If my hunch is true—that more people in Baltimore will travel to more places by bikeshare thanks to the new pedelec bikes—it’d be great to find a way to make sure that’s what’s added to the system.
This article is cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington