This is very smart marketing, and not a bad looking bike.
A monthly transit pass, the Metrocard, in New York City costs $121, or $1,452 per year. That's a lot of money for a broken, crowded system. It's more than it costs to buy a bike and even more than some decent e-bikes, like the one Wing Bikes is pitching as a transit alternative in New York, offering a very nice e-bike in 12 easy payments that cost less than a Metrocard.
Founder Seth Miller tells Gersh Kuntzman of Streetsblog NYC:
This is our way to get more people on bikes. We are footing the financing bill with the mission of trying to get more people on electric bikes, particularly people who need them.
E-bikes are making it possible for a lot more people to commute by bike, going longer distances with less sweat. If the city is any good about plowing the bike lanes, then you can ride all year (which is something that isn't certain on a subway these days, either).
Wing is making interesting bikes that are legal in New York City, having pedelec rather than throttle drive and limited to 20 MPH. It's got a 350 watt Bafang rear hub motor and a range of battery sizes starting at 317wh, which should push it up to 35 miles. It weighs only 39 pounds, light enough to haul up a flight of stairs. Being in New York, it has a built-in alarm system that New Yorkers will ignore, and built-in lights that are hard to steal.
The design is a homage to Vanmoof, which were the first to offer that dramatic extended top tube with lights at both ends. The problem is that the top tube is dead horizontal, and studies in Sweden and the Netherlands have shown that this is not as safe as step-through designs or women's bikes. This is especially true with older riders, who are a big part of the market for e-bikes. As one safety expert noted,"As people get older getting on and off the bike isn’t as easy. It’s the moment when most accidents occur, especially on e-bikes, and the consequences of a fall can be very serious for older people."
UPDATE: Wing Bikes advises that their Freedom S model "has a more approachable step over height."
But let's not talk top tubes; I am certain that I am not the first to mention this. Let's talk principles: it is a motorized vehicle that costs less than a Metrocard. The subway runs with a huge subsidy, and the City gives away parking for people who own cars in New York when they could be putting bike lanes everywhere. They could make it safe and comfortable to ride and significantly increase the proportion of people who commute by bike, taking the pressure off the subways and buses.
In Toronto where I live, a monthly pass for the TTC, the transit system, costs C$146.25. It is soon going up to about $150.63. That's a lot of money for what in rush hour is a miserable ride, and could buy a lot of bike. Meanwhile, the Federal Government just introduced a $5,000 subsidy for electric cars, a $300 million investments. Imagine if governments spent that kind of money on bike infrastructure and e-bike subsidies, what a difference it would make in our cities – a lot more than a few electric cars.
I have been forced off my bike and on to transit for the last few weeks due to an injury, and I am not enjoying it, even though I miss the worst of rush hour. I am thinking about e-bikes a lot these days, and I am not the only one. That's why Wing Bikes is really on to something here.
UPDATE: Wing Bikes