Capital Bikeshare Introduces E-Bikes

Unlike conventional bikes, the Plus bikes feature a motor that assists with pedaling- Photo courtesy of D.C. Department of Transportation

Capital Bikeshare, D.C.’s bike rental system, has added electric bikes to its fleet this week. Beginning Wednesday, September 5th, 80 new Capital Bikesure Plus e-bikes will be available in its system and the addition is part of a plan to diversify the line by about 4,300 bikes in the Washington region, according to officials with the District Department of Transportation. In an era of ride-sharing apps and electric scooters, Capital Bikeshare has struggled to remain competitive. Transportation officials anticipate e-bikes will make biking a more enticing option for commuters.

Unlike conventional bikes, the Plus bikes feature a motor that assists with pedaling. Users engage the motor by pedaling, unlike conventional motorbikes that feature a throttle. The bikes can go up to 18 miles per hour, but faster speed is possible by pedaling harder, making the bikes a good alternative to short commutes on ride-hailing apps.

The e-bikes will run through November and are expected to work seamlessly with the existing bike-share system. The bikes, black and sleek, are distinctly different from its signature red bikes. Much like the electric scooters that have gained popularity in the city, Capital Bikeshare hopes the bikes will become the transportation of choice for longer trips or for those who need the extra assistance to get around on two wheels.

However, electronic bikes have shaky regulations and were banned in New York despite their popularity overseas and in other parts of the country. The bikes have become synonymous with reckless driving on bike lanes and sidewalks, making them the bane of pedestrians and drivers alike. However, commuter and CityLab reporter Sarah Hilder, has different ideas.

“We’ve seen e-bikes in the city before with Uber’s JUMP bikes and I don’t think it’ll be a problem adding more,” she said. Uber’s JUMP bikes haven’t seen much popularity growth since being absorbed by Uber earlier this year, but the ride-hailing app itself has played a big part in Capital Bikeshares new rollout. “It will be interesting to see if there is any opposition to it.”

“Cities like New York crackdown on congestion formed by all the cars on the street,” Kim Lucas, manager of Capital Bikeshare’s system, referring to Uber and Lyft cars. “We always encourage Bikeshare as an alternative to calling a car, and hopefully this will give even more incentive.”

Capital Bikeshare is one of the oldest bike shares in the country, and, despite regulations hindering their use on some suburban sidewalks throughout Maryland, many residents have come to depend on Bikeshare for commuting. Bikeshare is also a staple for tourists in the metro. “These bikes are going to add a level of excitement to our fleet and that’s what really matters,” said Lucas.