City News

Electric BCycles show promise despite transitional issues

Students staying the summer in Madison express concerns about number of bikes and quality of the ride. 

Image By: Will Cioci

June 18 marked the start of a new era in Madison’s transportation landscape, gone now are the signature red, BCyle cruisers and in their place: 300 white and black electric bikes. 

Demand for the new bikes have surged.

In an interview with the Cap Times, BCycle's Morgan Ramaker reported that at the end of July, the service had logged more than 40,000 rides since its June rollout. This number is equivalent to about 40 percent of BCycle’s total rides in all of 2018.

However, the transition for the Trek-owned company has not been without its hiccups. Students spending the summer in Madison have had an advanced opportunity to try out the service and note some difficulties in the transition. 

“I work pretty far away from where I live, and I thought the safest way to get home was to take a Bcycle because I have a membership,” UW-Madison senior Greta Meidl-Westegaard said. “There was only one bike left at the Union South lot, and I don’t know why, but it wouldn’t let me take it. I don’t know if it was because it was the only one, but instead, I had to walk 20 minutes home in the dark.” 

At the time of writing this article, there are zero bikes at the Union South, University and Charter, Library Mall, State and N Frances and N Lake and University stations. Students often rely on the stations to get around campus in the summer as a quick and eco-friendly form of transportation.

Bikes being unavailable and station malfunction upon rental combines with a core concern for many Madison riders. While the electric capabilities of the bikes make for a speedy ride, when the battery runs out, it can make for a somewhat unpleasant riding experience. 

“I didn’t know you were supposed to check if they were charged or not before you paid for it,” senior Phil Nowalk said. “So I paid for it and took the bike out and tried to turn the engine on and it didn’t turn on because it wasn’t charged. So I paid $5 to get really tired because the bike is a lot heavier now.” 

The negative experiences are not without acknowledging the positives the service does provide. Students are able to purchase an annual BCycle membership for $20 when they provide their wisc.edu email. 

“I love BCycle, and I want them to be successful,” Meidl-Westegaard said. 

The new electric bikes have allowed riders a faster alternative to getting around town with bikes, maxing out at 17 miles per hour. Riders are additionally able to cross further distances with stations ranging a wide area. 

Madison BCycle Executive Director Lisa Snyder did not respond for comment on this story. 

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