Despite the fact that Seattle saved Pronto Cycle Share from it’s impending demise, the city is currently negotiating with Quebec-based company Bewegen on plans to replace the current bike share system with a fleet of electric-assist bicycles.
While negotiations continue, SDOT took to the streets with some of the e-assist bikes that we’d be using and let some local media folks take them for a test spin.
Both The Seattle Times and Seattle Bike Blog found the bikes to be heavy, bulky, and clumsy but both also appreciated the way the electric motors made climbing steep hills a relative breeze.
Evan Bush of the Times said the bikes almost felt more like scooters at time:
At times it felt less like cycling and more like riding a scooter through the streets of a European city — just without the picturesque cobblestones and high-fashion sex appeal.
While SBB’s tester had the kind of run-in that the people behind the bike share dream of:
The bikes did turn heads. After easily cruising up James, I was walking the bike along the sidewalk on 5th in front of City Hall and a woman stopped me and asked how I got up the hill so easily. She thought I was some kind of endurance athlete.
Bush was able to get up to 19 MPH on his bike and an SDOT rep says they top out at 20 MPH. Even with the motor, you still need to have a little bit of momentum when going up some of Seattle’s steeper hills but even then Bush was able to get up to 10 MPH going up a street many cyclists don’t even bother with.
Other nuggets of interest include the fact that bikes are tracked by GPS and come with a lock to be secured when away from bike docks. When paying to rent a bike, users will be able to use all kinds of technology, from a credit card to their phone. SDOT also plans to find a way to allow bike share commuters to use ORCA cards.
Still a ways to go before the bikes are official, then implemented (Bewegen says it can change out the entire system within 16 weeks), and available wide enough that it will make an impact. But it sounds like Seattle is on the right track towards the cycle share program it was supposed to have.