Cities in California to Launch Biggest Electric Bike-share System in the United States

More than 1,000 cities nationwide have bike-share programs, and Davis, California, is scheduled to join that list on May 15, 2018. SoBi, a division of Jump Bicycles, will operate the program that will cover Davis, Sacramento and West Sacramento. They already rent more than 15,000 bikes in over 40 different markets. This bike-share will be different than many around the globe because it will use electric pedal-assist bikes. The program currently has 300 bikes with another 600 to be added by fall 2018. Once fully operational, it will be the largest bike-share program in the United States.

A trial program was started in downtown Sacramento and in West Sacramento in May 2017. In order to participate in the program, users need to download an app to their phones. Then, when they are ready to ride a bike, they enter a special code on the bike and rider away. One participant reports that some potential users who have asked him questions about the system are reluctant to download the system to their phones. Users need to pay a monthly fee and also pay for each hour they have the bike.

Proponents of the system say that more people may be willing to try these bikes because they are pedal-assist bikes. In other areas where pedal-assist bike share programs have been implemented, the bikes go up to 20 miles per hour. The bike will sense how hard you are pedaling and give you a boost based on how fast you are wanting to go. These bikes will not have a throttle, so they will feel more natural for people who are used to riding a bicycle.

In other cities where bike-share programs are successful, many participants choose to ride a bike from a hub located near their home to public transportation and from public transportation to where they are going. This helps to eliminate the need for a car while making travel to work or social events faster and easier.

Riders have the option of returning a bike to a hub or locking it up anywhere within a geo-fenced area. Those who lock the bike up within the geo-fenced area pay slightly more than if they return it to a hub. Other riders can see where a bike is located and return the bike to a hub for a credit on their account.

The trial system already in the area along with the full system coming to the area is a for-profit system. This has raised some concerns for proponents of the system. The company may face competition from other for-profit companies. Furthermore, some say that the way that the system is structured may mean that most hubs are located in areas where incomes are higher denying access to the area’s poorest residents. Some suggest that the bikes be tied into the regional transportation card allowing everyone better access to the bikes.

The trial program for pedal-assist bikes in Davis, Sacramento and West Sacramento has in place for several months with SoBi expected to roll out the full program in May. While the program has been successful, some users have been reluctant to download the app while others want to make sure that those on a fixed or lower income have equal access to the program.

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