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Farther, Faster and No Sweat: Bike-Sharing and the E-Bike Boom

  • March 03, 2021

Chicago plans to have 10,000 e-bikes in its Divvy system by 2022 — it added 3,500 e-bikes in 2020 — in a plan to provide accessibility to 100 percent of the city.

Adopting e-bikes hasn’t come without growing pains. In New York City, Citi Bike introduced e-bikes in 2018, but removed them in 2019 after reports of brakes malfunctioning, causing rider injuries (similar problems forced Lyft, which manages Citi Bike, to temporarily withdraw e-bikes from its systems in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco). Last winter, New York re-introduced Citi Bike e-bikes, which reach maximum speeds of 18 m.p.h., below the limit of 20 m.p.h. later set by the city for the pedal-assisted e-bikes. There are now about 3,700 e-bikes in the 19,000-bike system; the average e-bike gets over nine rides a day, while the average for pedal bikes is 3.5.

“Putting a little bit of a motor on it makes cycling more attractive to a wider and aging audience,” said Aaron Ritz, who oversees the Indego bike-share system for the City of Philadelphia. Over the next five years, the Indego system will more than double in size, making half the fleet electric and focusing on historically underserved neighborhoods, which tend to be Black or Latin American.

“The more we shift from single-occupancy vehicles, the better, for reasons of air quality, traffic safety, environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Ritz said.

Gregory F. Maassen, 53, a resident of Washington, D.C., describes the district’s Capital Bikeshare e-bikes as “built like tanks to withstand a lot of abuse.”

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