Green, But No SweatAs awesome as the bike is as a way to get around, sometimes human muscles don't quite pack enough oomph to deal with hilly terrain. Tour de France cyclists might see steep inclines as a challenge, but my mother would welcome a little assistance... That's why it's such a great idea for San Francisco - far from a flat city - to add electric bikes to its City CarShare fleet (a local nonprofit).
The Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Pilot Program awarded $1.5 million for the initiative through the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency, the project’s fiscal sponsor. Ultimately the money will go to the local nonprofit City CarShare, which plans to integrate the e-bikes and trailers with its existing car sharing service, and to the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, which is responsible for assessing the impact and lessons learned from the project.
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.
It's a great idea as long as the execution is good. People need to be made aware that these e-bikes are available (it would be even better if there was more of them, of course), and they need to be located within areas where they will be most useful. They also need to make sure that the batteries are always being charged when the bikes are back at the stations (or at least overnight). If all of that is done well, I think electric bikes will be a big hit in SF, and I hope they'll also be added to bike fleets in other cities (even cities in flatter landscapes could benefit from e-bikes).