Solving Cities

Electric bikeshare coming to San Francisco

Electric bikeshare coming to San Francisco

Posting in Cities

To ease to pain of biking through hilly San Francisco, the city will roll out an electric bikeshare program.

Climbing San Francisco's hills in a car can be difficult enough, but if you're on a bike you'll need to either change your route or, well, good luck.

To help ease the pain of the city's terrain for bikers, San Francisco is starting an electric bikeshare system later this year.

New York Times reports that the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency will use federal funds to assist the local nonprofit City Carshare with implementing e-bikes into its existing carsharing program, where you pay-per-use. Transportation Sustainability Research Center at University of California, Berkeley will also receive funds to study the who and why of e-bike use.

In essence, the goal is to find out how many car-share trips will be replaced with electric bicycle trips, and what factors influence the switch. City CarShare will receive $760,000 of the grant money, covering some 40 percent of the costs over three years for 90 e-bikes at about 25 locations.

The organization plans to roll out 45 bikes in the second half of this year and 45 more by the end of 2013, mostly in San Francisco but in Berkeley as well.

“We think of car sharing as transit,” City CarShare’s chief executive, Rick Hutchinson, said in a telephone interview. Adding e-bikes to the mix gives people another option, he said, making it that much easier to skip driving or ditch vehicle ownership altogether.

With San Francisco being a hilly city, e-bikes seem like they could fill gaps in transit holes. But it will be interesting to see if there is a high enough demand for the e-bikes to make sense to add to the transit mix. If they are only used marginally, it wouldn't seem like a form of transit that wouldn't work as well in flat cities, like Chicago.

The partial funding for the project came from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration's Value Pricing Pilot Program, which focuses funding on projects to reduce congestion, lower traffic volumes, increase transit ridership, and improve air quality, using variable pricing.

A Bay Area Experiment in Electric Bike Sharing [New York Times]

Photo: frenquency/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure