Pittsburgh Bike Share adding electric-assist bikes to fleet this summer | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Bike Share adding electric-assist bikes to fleet this summer

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Bike Share adding electric-assist bikes to fleet this summer
Example of an electric-assist bike
Riding up Pittsburgh's hills is a huge deterrent to cycling in the city, but Pittsburgh's bike-share system is hoping to make that easier.

According to WESA, Healthy Ride, aka Pittsburgh Bike Share, will add five electric-assist bicycles to its fleet of hundreds of bikes sometime this summer.

Electric-assist bikes, or e-bikes, act the same as regular pedal-powered bikes, except riders gets a boost from a small electric engine to help them power up hills or ride faster in traffic, when bike lanes aren't available. E-bikes can travel up to 20 mph, without too much exertion from the rider, but still require some pedaling.

Healthy Ride executive director David White told WESA today that he is excited for electric-assist bikes to hit Pittsburgh streets and that Healthy Ride will track their usage closely this summer. He said there are many benefits that electric-assist bike have over regular cycling.

“You can haul a kid, you can grocery shop, you don't have to change your clothes, you don't have to alter what you do throughout the day,” White said to WESA. “You don't have to plan your route in a way that sort of eliminates any type of uphill climb. You can just go up the hill.”

E-bikes have been booming in popularity. According to market researchers at The NBD Group, e-bike sales have increased 450 percent since 2013. And other bike-share outfits are getting in on the action too. In February, Citi Bike in New York City announced adding 4,000 e-bikes to its fleet, up from 200.

According to ride-hail company Lyft, who manages e-bikes for Citi Bike, the electric-assist bikes are three times as popular as regular bike-share bikes.

Electric-assist bikes are also a good option for people looking to ditch their car. According to Christopher Cherry, a transportation researcher at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, e-bikes are 10 to 20 times more energy-efficient than a car. Pittsburgh's Department of Mobility and Infrastructure director Karina Ricks lauded the use of e-bikes on Bike to Work Day earlier this year.
White from Healthy Ride said e-bikes were just another piece in the puzzle to making Pittsburgh a more connected city for non-drivers. He said he hopes e-bikes will increase people's connections to public transit and other non-car mobility options.