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Bluebikes to add electric bicycles

Streetsblog Mass reports Bluebikes and Boston officials are set to announce the impending arrival of battery-powered bicycles to rental bike racks in the city.

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Given the level of theft and vandalism affecting the existing blue bikes and the lack of seriousness in addressing the issue by Lyft (the operator), I am concerned that the cost of these electric bikes (>$3000?) is going to bankrupt the system.

Non-electric Blue Bikes have the benefit of being slow; that's what made them relatively safe. That will no longer be the case with the electric ones.

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are you seeing the speed of the e-bikes? You know it's possible to limit the speed of the bike, right?

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Absolutely agree with this. They need embedded GPS and to track down stolen bikes. The number I see abandoned or part of encampments is sky high.

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Agree on safety. I hope the electric assist is very speed limited.

Ebikes are very heavy and can really zip (I'm an owner) and in the hands of an amateur they are dangerous to the rider and others. MUCH more dangerous than electric foot scooters, which I think is a much more reasonable option than ebikes for casual city rentals.

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Lyft is not going to go bankrupt because of ebikes. They burn billions of dollars a year in their primary business of losing money on ride share. This will continue until investors finally realize they'll never be a profitable company, or Lyft sells of their municipal bike business. Given the relatively fixed costs of contracts and per-unit expenses, I'd wager that running bike shares is actually easier on Lyft than ride sharing.

Despite ebikes being heavier than their non-e counterparts, the Lyft bikes have upgraded to hydraulic disc brakes to help manage the stopping. These brakes are good enough to keep heavy people like myself safe while hurtling down mountains, and I promise they'll be good enough for stopping these bikes. Furthermore, the bikes are speed-limited to 20 mph, so they will only go a few MPH faster than the average rider is used to at max speed. I don't forsee any of this being a serious problem.

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That's good news about the hydraulic brakes. I was wondering about that because a lot of cheap e-bike crashes have weak brakes as a contributing factor. It's a problem when e-bikes are faster and heavier than a normal bike while also using cheap mechanical brakes. Hydraulics are awesome and allow one-finger braking as long as they are maintained well.

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Where will the first fire be?

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Scooters and electric skateboards, yes. But I never hear about it with electric bikes, for some reason. Different manufacturing standards?

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I've ridden public e-bikes in several other cities, they work great, glad we're getting more cool bike infra in Boston.

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They are so popular that most cities switch entirely to them after a few years. (And they are more profitable to their owners.) The popularity of Blue Bikes showed that motors aren't actually needed.

I'm sad that eMopeds are quickly replacing real bikes. Yes, they allow some people to be mobile in ways they couldn't before and that's good. But for the most part, it's just reinforcing the commonly held view that anything which moves people needs to have a motor even if the device would be fine without one.

Bikes are awesome because they extend human ability with simple mechanics. No motor needed to magically triple ones maximum speed.

It was bicycle riders who insisted on better streets a century ago. Those improvements quickly became exclusively for the automobile once they became affordable to the masses. I see the same story being repeated for bike lanes and mopeds.

To argue against mopeds is akin to yelling at clouds so I won't try to block anything. But it's still more proof we're in the dumbest of timelines. We have this amazing contraption that suddenly needs 10lb of toxic materials so that people can go slightly faster or with less effort.

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They have replaced more car emissions than electric cars.

Get over yourself. They are bikes that make biking practical and fun, and people are using them.

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A eMoped is better than a car but a real bike is better then both.

You prove my point: Arguing that bikes need motors to be practical and fun. There's also the related BS argument that bikes aren't safe if they can't go above some speed.

I'm not taking away anyone's moped, just disappointed that motors again become the expectation.

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Mopeds are entirely different from e-bikes.

E-bike programs have done well in other cities - I saw them in NYC, didn't see any issues other than there were too many in some areas and too few acoustic bikes.

Also note: some people who have ridden bikes for decades are using e-bikes to keep riding. I am one of them, at least for specific applications. Not everyone has the luxury of a shower at work, or wants to wear a padded spandex suit just to go to the grocery store. And not everyone starts out riding with sufficient baseline fitness to get over hills - but baseline fitness does improve with an ebike. My ebike has about 425 kcal of energy - and I use that over about 70 miles, where my energy burning share is an order of magnitude higher. Hardly a moped!

tl/dr: stop being an ignorant snob and try one. Sorry if ebikes make you feel unspecial.

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I've been biking to work for decades without bike clothes or a shower. I just ride at a casual pace. Why do people assume anyone riding a non-ebike must be jobless or a rich bike path racer with a work shower?

You've said in the past you feel you need an ebike to keep up with traffic. (You said drivers notice you are riding an ebike and treat you differently. I find it highly unlikely drivers look closely at your bike.) The fact you think going fast is requirement for cyclists is what I find infuriating.

Also, it's possible to disagree with someone without calling them names or suggesting they have some ulterior motive.

To be clear: I'm fine with mopeds (motor-pedals, aka eMopeds, aka ebikes) for some of the cases you mentioned. But I don't think it's net positive when they become the expectation for commuters and recreation cyclists and it's quickly moving in that direction. I predict in 5 years Lyft will phase out the non-ebikes.

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I only use them to keep with traffic when I have no other choice but to be in the travel lane - e.g., in a construction zone. Having the extra boost means that I can add a couple miles to my route to get non-road routes most of the way, too.

My average speed on my 17 mile round trip commute is about 13mph - and, looking at decades of recorded rides, that's not any different from when I rode an acoustic. It is, in fact, slower than my commutes of 25 years ago when 14-15 mph average was more typical.

Your reactionary snobbery and bullshit misnaming of the mode of travel is getting in the way of your ability to think rationally about the broader benefits to people not so pure as you envision yourself. So wonderful for you that you have such a flat and short course to work that you don't sweat, although I'd love to interview your coworkers on that.

May arthritis never catch up with you.

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You get a ebike and suddenly you start repeating the tired old anti-bike lines. To paraphrase:

"If you bike you'll smell bad and your co-workers won't like you"
"Only young people in perfect fitness can bike"
"It's not safe/suitable if you can't keep up with traffic when needed"
"Biking is only reasonable if you live within a few miles of your destination"

None of the above is true! If you need a motor, fine, but most people do not.

Mopeds have their place but they shouldn't be considered the norm for average people and/or that only "snobs" ride bikes without motors.

And, we both live in Medford. My commute is a bit further than yours. If you gotta ride a bike with a motor, that's fine, no one is going to take it from you. Just please don't say foolish things like cyclists need to be able to travel at car speeds to ride in the road.

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That sure is some loose and free-hand paraphrasing you're doing there.

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If it moves people out of cars, I guess it's for the best on the bottom line, but... in a direct-substitution comparison, "acoustic" bikes are better for the environment and for the rider's health. What I really don't like is seeing people go from acoustic to electric when they don't need it.

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better for the environment and for the rider's health.
What I really don't like is seeing people go from acoustic to electric when they don't need it.

That's your take. Do you really feel you're better qualified than other people to judge what's better for their health or what they need?

People with disabilities don't all fit into neat categories that the able-bodied population recognizes. Even when they do, they're frequently judged. You don't need that parking space. You don't need that ramp. Surely you can climb those stairs. Surely that busted-up sidewalk isn't really an issue. Not really. Surely it isn't.

This is harmful behavior, and I think we'd all do better to keep these judgments and opinions to ourselves.

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that I didn't actually write. I'm certainly well aware of how disability and transit intersect, and how not everyone can bike, and not everyone can drive, etc.

I thought we were past the point of having to give 3 paragraphs of sensitivity- and awareness-displaying disclaimers every time we talk about bikes, but I guess not. Maybe you can just imagine I wrote those things too?

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You're reading a lot of things in my comment that I didn't actually write.

I don't think so? You wrote how it "saddens" you when you see people using ebikes "when they don't really need it". By your use of the verb "see", I assume these are people you see on the street and not people that you know well, and of whom you might know the details of their health. Maybe your original phrasing didn't accurately represent what you wanted to say.

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but I don't think you should automatically assume the worst, when it's not crystal clear.

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If we really want to reduce pollution we need to start reducing the use of electricity, as was the goal in the 70s-90s, instead of trying to fund new ways to use more energy like electrifying bikes. Repair older bikes and make them cheap or free for Boston area residents, not replace human powered bikes with energy powered ones. The idea that Americans can buy more and more things to be “green” instead of reducing consumption and using human powered ways to get around makes corporations richer but is destroying the climate even faster.

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They are replacing car miles. Summary article: https://electricbikereport.com/research-finds-ebiking-replaces-car-trips...

Go out in the world a bit - there are a lot of people for whom the ebike is a huge game changer, from the cargo bike folks hauling families and stuff to people using them as an alternative to calling cabs in places without other transport options. They can make a 10 mile commute possible rather than daunting and sweaty, and lower barriers to cycling for routine errands for many people. I saw a lot of the small-wheeled, sturdy, knobby tire kind in rural areas of MA, VT, NY, and NH hauling a lot of groceries and getting people around who would otherwise not be able to bike that 3 miles into town and back over the hill and/or can't afford a car.

Referenced report link: http://ppms.trec.pdx.edu/media/project_files/NITC_RR_1041_North_American...

Through analysis it became evident that e-bikes are making it possible for more people to ride a bicycle, many of whom are incapable of riding a standard bicycle or don’t feel safe doing so. Additionally, the electric assist of the e-bike helps to generate more trips, longer trips and different types of bicycle trips. These findings are represented by the
high value attributed to being able to avoid or tackle hills easier, ride farther and faster with less effort, and being able to carry more cargo or children when needed.

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Worth noting: "Members pay $0.10/minute. No unlock fee.
Non-members pay $0.25/min plus $2.95 to unlock."

Looks reasonable for members at $3 per 30-minute ride, quite pricey for non-members at $10.45 per 30-minute ride

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quite pricey for non-members at $10.45 per 30-minute ride

A person cycling from Watertown Center can get to South Station for $10.45 cycling a respectable ~16mph in less than 30min.

An Uber or Lyft for that same trip may save time (but how’s traffic?) but costs between $21-54 dollars not including tip. The trip would take between 13min to 47min depending on traffic.

The MBTA’s 504 Express Bus claims it can get you there in 29 minutes for $4.25 but takes the Pike and is subject to single occupancy vehicle traffic as there’s no bus lane. This bus is meant for commuters and has a crummy schedule that claims to run every 15-45 minutes. But varying schedule and the T’s shaky reliability are also factors to consider.

In doing these calculations, the ebike considerably cheaper than a ride share and more convenient than the T. The ebike may also be fun? The bulk of the mileage done via bike would have you riding the beautiful Charles River Parkway with only a few road crossings. I was surprised how well the T delivers in this scenario at least on paper.

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Well, at least my wife has! We rode some electric bike shares in San Francisco, and it totally converted her. She’s been holding out on a BlueBikes membership until they added electric ones. She’s not concerned with going fast, but wants that extra help lugging around a bike that’s almost half her weight.

I prefer acoustic bicycles, but the introduction of these electric ones has gained the system a new subscriber. I can’t imagine she’s alone in her feelings and motivations.

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Given the speculation here in the comments, it might be worth reading an article that lays out the facts about the new bikes. Wired has a good one.

Important takeaways are:

-Hydraulic disc brakes, rather than the cable actuated roller brakes on the analog bikes.
-No throttle. These are true pedal-assist bikes.
-Assist level currently fixed, but may be adjustable later
-Class 1 (limited to 20mph assist)
-WiFi and GPS equipped for tracking

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Read this post FIRST!

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