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Electric BCycle

Madison BCycle will be converting its familiar red fleet of bikes to white, pedal-assisted electric bikes. 

For those looking to make a bike commute with less sweat, the city of Madison and Trek Bicycles have something coming for you.

Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Trek president John Burke are announcing that Trek’s popular Madison BCycle bike-sharing program will be converting its familiar red fleet to white, pedal-assisted electric bikes starting June 18.

Madison will be the first city in the United States to fully convert its bike-sharing system to e-bikes.

“E-bikes are going to be a game changer in Madison,” Lisa Snyder, executive director of Madison BCycle said in a statement. “E-bikes take you further, faster. They change your commute. They take away hills. They make Madison even more enjoyable to explore by bike.”

The bikes also open up the possibility of biking to individuals who may not have considered riding before, said Morgan Ramaker, executive director for BCycle, which operates in dozens of cities from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

“During a pilot test last fall in six cities, including Madison, we found that ridership more than doubled on e-bikes,” Ramaker said. “Our goal is to change the world by getting more people on bikes, and e-bikes help us do that.”

The BCycle electric, which is compatible with existing kiosks, amplifies peddling power. It features a Bosch system that provides support at speeds up to 17 mph. The power assist only works when riders pedal, and can be turned off any time during a ride.

“Our bikes are still a great ride with the power turned off,” Ramaker said.

Currently, BCycle has more than 44 docking stations with 350 bikes throughout Downtown and surrounding areas.

Kicking off

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Rhodes-Conway and Burke will formally announce the change at a press conference kick-off event at 11 a.m., June 18, in the 200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The event will feature an inaugural ride around Capitol Square and food and beverages.

For those who want a sneak peak, BCycle Madison has scheduled a demonstration of the bikes for noon on Thursday at State Street where it meets Capitol Square.

Launched in Madison in May of 2011, BCycle logged more than 20,000 rides in its first year of operations here, with annual totals now well over 100,000. Checking out a bicycle and checking it back in again at one of BCycle’s self-service docking stations counts as one ride.

BCycle members can check out a bike at any station, ride where they want to go and park it at the station closest to the destination.

The rules

Most rules governing the use of electric bicycles are state laws, and the city does not have the authority to enact laws different than the state’s.

The law says anyone operating an electric bicycle must have a driver’s license, special restricted operator’s license or instruction permit, and operators must follow the same rules of the road as bicyclists. An electric bicycle is only allowed on bike paths when solely operated under human power with the motor off. They can only be operated on permitted sidewalks in Madison with the motor off.

The Legislature is currently considering new regulation around e-bikes that is receiving bipartisan support, Ramaker said.

The law says anyone operating an electric bicycle must have a driver’s license, special restricted operator’s license or instruction permit.

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