Based on hype alone, the rise of dockless electric scooters appears to be the most meaningful shift towards a more multimodal, less car-centric future this year. But advocates for electric bikes believe that the growth of new, shared options for boosted bikes suggest they’re also prime to play a role in the evolution of urban transportation.
During a press conference held by the North American Bikeshare Association yesterday, industry advocates presented a case for the rise in electric bikeshare, and how bikes powered by batteries, often called pedal-assist bikes, can integrate into and improve existing transportation networks.
“If the end goal is more cycling and more trips made on a bike, we should all be aligned towards that goal,” said Ryan Rzepecki, founder and CEO of Jump, a dockless electric bike startup that was recently purchased by Uber.
Electric bikes are a small but growing market
While electric bikes, and integrating electric bikes into bikeshare programs, is still a niche mode of transportation, it’s growing across the globe. Global sales should hit $24.4 billion by 2025, according to a Navigant Research study. Since the first such public program launched in Genoa, Italy, in 2009 as a means to help residents navigate the city’s hilly coastal terrain, roughly 150 cities have launched bikeshare programs that utilize electric bikes to some degree, with roughly 50,000 pedal-assist bikes in service.
Only 4,000 of those are in service in the United States, but that number is rising fast. Beginning with the nation’s first electric bikeshare program, which launched in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2015, companies such as Jump, Motivate, and Lime have expanded throughout the country. Jump launched the first dockless electric bikeshare in San Francisco in June 2017, and now operates in Washington D.C., as well as Sacramento and Santa Cruz, California, and plans to expand to Austin, Chicago, and other U.S. cities later this year. Bike Chattanooga plans to introduce electric bikes in the coming weeks.
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