Under California state law, the bikes are limited to 20 miles per hour and a motor of less than 1,000 watts, but do not need to be registered as motor vehicles. Because the motor enables riders to traverse more difficult terrain while still exerting minimal effort, the hope is that the new program will encourage cycling among a more diverse group of people and cut down on the number of car trips within the city.
The program is being funded by a grant from The Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Pilot Program, and is being run by City CarShare, a San Francisco non-profit. City CarShare is looking to add 45 electric bikes to their existing car sharing service by the end of this year as well as an additional 45 electric bikes in 2013.
In an interview with the New York Times, City CarShare’s chief executive, Rick Hutchinson stated that the goal is to offer people yet another form of transit that could serve as a convenient alternative. Stating, “People will go to our site, pull down a list, and see maybe four cars and some electric bikes available for their errand or shopping trip or doctor’s appointment.” Since the bikes will be cheaper than the cars, a side by side comparison might encourage the question, “Could I do this on a bike?”
Although a few electric bikeshare programs already exist, adding the bikes to an existing carshare program is a new concept. And, the program should offer some valuable data about the number of people willing to forego a car and opt for a bike instead.