After putting the brakes on its electric bike initiative last year, Capital Bikeshare will be releasing a fleet of 1,500 new electric bikes onto Washington, D.C. streets beginning March 18.
The improved e-bikes are equipped with hybrid docking technology that allows riders to lock the bikes to Capital Bikeshare stations, as well as standard bike racks for a $1 out-of-station fee, according to a Feb. 21 District Department of Transportation news release. Capital Bikeshare e-bike riders will also be charged a $1 fee per trip in addition to the normal trip fees.
E-bikes will be an attractive new transportation option for students and other university community members, according to Georgetown University Transportation Demand Manager Lindsey Bullen.
“The new e-bikes make it easier to travel a longer distance, and ride in areas with hills, which can make biking more accessible for our campus community,” Bullen wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Capital Bikeshare can also be accessed 24/7 when other transportation options may not be available.”
Capital Bikeshare has two docking stations near campus, one outside the main gates of campus and one recently installed in Burleith. Georgetown students are eligible for a discounted annual bike membership of $25 in partnership with the Capital Bikeshare University Program.
The university encourages the increased use of bikes, according to Bullen.
“I expect we will see the e-bikes being used to get to and from campus, especially now that the University has access to two docking stations nearby,” Bullen wrote. “The e-bikes are only a portion of the total Capital Bikeshare bikes in the system, so we will still see high usage of the traditional Capital Bikeshare bikes.”
The reimplementation of the e-bike program comes as part of a District-wide effort to broaden transportation options, according to DDOT Director Jeff Marootian.
“These new and improved e-bikes will allow Capital Bikeshare riders to lock the bikes to bike racks at their destination, allowing unprecedented accessibility across all eight wards of the District,” Marootian wrote in the Feb. 21 news release.
Advisory Neighborhood 2E Commissioner Kishan Putta, who is currently running to represent Ward 2 on the Council of the District of Columbia, supports the return of the e-bike program as a more sustainable transportation option for D.C. residents, he wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“We need more electric modes of transportation in D.C.,” Putta wrote. “I support the expansion of not only electric bikes, but electric cars, buses and charging stations to help DC become carbon neutral and climate resilient by 2050.”
Capital Bikeshare recalled the e-bike pilot program in April 2019 after issues with the e-bikes’ braking systems resulted in multiple injuries among riders. The company continued to offer nonelectric bikes while undergoing internal safety assessments and improvements.
The company’s decision to halt the e-bike program after safety concerns was a wise one, according to Putta.
“I strongly support new safe, efficient transportation options in our city,” Putta wrote. “Safety is most important. That’s why I am glad Bikeshare voluntarily paused the e-bike program until they were made safer.”
Members in the Community Partners Program, Capital Bikeshare’s need-based discount service, will also have complete access to the new e-bike initiative, according to an update posted on the Capital Bikeshare website. CPP members will receive a one-year free membership extension and will not be charged the additional e-bike fee.
To ensure the success of the Capital Bikeshare e-bike program, the company needs to remain focused on promoting public safety and responsible use, according to Putta.
“They should not roll this program out unless they are fully ready to ensure that these bikes will be parked safely,” Putta wrote. “We are glad for these new transportation options in our city, but these companies are making money. They have to be safe, used safely and parked safely.”