Washington’s bike rental system is adding electric bikes to its fleet this week— a shift that responds to America’s growing fascination with the battery-powered vehicles. The addition of e-bikes also delivers on Capital Bikeshare’s promise to remain competitive in an era of electric scooters and other personal mobility devices set to revolutionize travel.
Starting Wednesday, Capital Bikeshare will have 80 e-bikes available throughout its system, officials with the District Department of Transportation said. The addition is part of an experiment to diversify its fleet of about 4,300 bikes at more than 500 stations in the Washington region.
City transportation officials anticipate e-bikes will make biking more attractive than the conventional bikes for some commuters, and may become a choice for longer trips or for people who need the extra power assistance to get around on two wheels.
E-bikes have grown in popularity in the United States along with Americans’ fascination with biking. Users say electric bikes eliminate barriers for those who may be discouraged from riding a traditional bike because of age, disability or limited physical fitness. Some commuters also prefer them because they make for a less sweaty ride.
The embrace of the electric option by the publicly-subsidized Capital Bikeshare program comes as tension continues to build on city roads and sidewalks as a result of a rise in the use of bikes and scooters. E-bike regulations differ across the region. In the District and some of its suburbs, for example, e-bikes are not permitted on trails and sidewalks.
E-bikes are already available for rent in the District through JUMP. The Uber-owned company has been operating a dockless bike system in the city since last fall, providing some of the more sought-after bikes. Each JUMP bike is averaging 3.5 trips daily, according to a company analysis from last spring.
D.C. transportation officials said the e-bike pilot, known as Capital Bikeshare Plus, will run through November. The e-bikes are expected to work seamlessly with the system: the bikes can be docked at any Capital Bikeshare station, riders will be able to unlock them using their Capital Bikeshare key fob, or the app, and the existing Capital Bikeshare fees apply. (Users have a choice of $2 for a 30-minute trip, an $8 day pass that includes trips under 30 minutes and annual memberships of $85.)
“Capital Bikeshare Plus will be a fun experience for both existing members and new users alike,” said Kim Lucas, who manages the District’s Capital Bikeshare system.
The Capital Bikeshare e-bikes are black, an important distinction from its signature red bikes.
Capital Bikeshare, one of the oldest bike-share systems in the country, operates in the District and Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Many area residents have come to depend on Capital Bikeshare for commuting and short trip travels.