E-bike share program to launch in upvalley towns this spring
Ninety bikes will be stationed throughout Avon, EagleVail and Vail
Avon, EagleVail and Vail will be launching a regional electric bike share this summer — with 90 electric bikes stationed throughout the three communities.
The program will be called Shift Bike, with the name serving as a nod to its goal of getting individuals to shift behavior and shift from driving a car to riding a bike for things like errands or shorter commutes. This is a goal that directly aligns with overarching climate action goals of each participating community and the county.
As transportation serves as Eagle County’s greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions, many local transit-related efforts are being launched to hit the Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
“Promoting use of public transportation, carpooling and active forms of transportation such as walking and biking are great strategies to reduce transportation-related emissions. Electric bikes are a great solution to get around the valley without driving a vehicle in a fun, fast and efficient manner, but not everyone has an e-bike,” said Beth Markham, the town of Vail’s environmental sustainability coordinator.
Markham added that while there are a number of e-bike incentive and rebate programs in the county, actually owning an e-bike can be out of reach for some residents.
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“Micro-mobility solutions such as electric bike share programs break down barriers and the need to own an e-bike and offer more people the option to commute via e-bike,” she said. “E-bike shares can also allow people to try out an e-bike to see if it is something they are interested in purchasing.”
Both Vail and Avon have had their own bike share programs in the past.
Avon launched a bike share program in 2017 with Zagster, and ran the program through 2019, during the summers. The program had 25 bikes in six locations throughout town. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zagster went out of business in 2020, halting the town’s share program.
During the three summers it was in place, the town saw good participation in the program. In its first year, while there were only 267 trips taken on the share bikes, it grew in the subsequent two summers to 718 and 715 trips.
Avon Mobility Director Eva Wilson said that the program had both its successes and its downsides. While it was expensive to use, the town heard the value of being able to use the bikes from various residents.
Vail’s program was shorter-lived. In 2020, the town had a 10-week trial of an e-bike sharing program with Bewegen Technologies. With 12 e-bikes deployed in Vail, around 189 people recorded at least one ride.
“The goal of the initial e-bike share pilot program was to test whether people would actually use the system and to determine how it might work in our community,” Markham said. “We found that people did use the system during the pilot period and there was higher demand than availability. We also learned what worked and what challenges arose as part of the pilot system.”
Coming back this summer, the idea to have more of a regional program came about rather naturally.
Wilson said that Avon “jumped at the opportunity to partner with Vail and EagleVail” as it gives the town an opportunity to enhance micro-mobility options within the region. These options, Wilson referred to as a “key strategy to building a sustainable transportation system.”
And with the new bike share program, “the bigger the better,” she added.
“Similar to transit, the more bikes (buses) and stations (stops) the better. Convenience and access are very important to the success of any ‘share’ program,” Wilson said.
“The regional approach allows greater opportunity for more residents to shift their behaviors when it comes to transportation and provide more opportunities for people to use e-bikes as a mode of mobility,” Markham said. “Residents using the e-bike share will be able to travel between the three partner communities on the e-bikes and have a place in those communities to dock the bikes and end rides.”
Not only that, but it can serve as another option for anyone traveling between communities — be it employees traveling to other communities for work or for individuals traveling to social activities and events.
And in the future, Markham expressed a hope to “see the program expand to even more regional communities in the future.”
The new Shift Bike program is expected to launch in May and run through Oct. 1, 2022. Earlier this year, the group of communities selected Toronto-based Drop Mobility from five proposals received to deploy the e-bike system.
“The Drop Mobility proposal maximized the budget to provide the largest system possible and provided the most robust operations plan with a demonstrated understanding of this community,” read a memo to the Vail Town Council at its April 5 meeting. “The selection committee determined Drop Mobility is the best vendor of those who responded to provide a high quality, effective and robust electric bike share system.”
Ninety electric bikes will be deployed and stationed through the region: with 18 in Avon, 63 in Vail and nine in EagleVail. According to the Vail memo, these will be distributed in 10 stations in Vail, three in Avon and two in EagleVail. The details in terms of the exact distribution and location of stations has yet to be determined.
The bike amounts correspond with the investments made by the three municipalities: $49,840 from Avon, $174,400 from Vail and $24,920 from EagleVail.
According to a report prepared by Wilson, “user fees are still being determined.”
With these details to be determined, Markham said that the pricing structure will also have benefits for local residents as well as reduced pricing for income-qualified residents.
As the town’s don’t want to detract from the other e-bike rentals and programs from local shops, the municipalities will have a number of education efforts surrounding Shift as well as plan to connect with the local shops as well.
“We will also be working to educate users on the difference between e-bike share, which is typically for shorter commutes, versus e-bike rentals and will encourage visitors to rent e-bikes from local bike shops for recreational purposes and to use for longer periods of time,” Markham said.
And, Wilson’s report further highlights that the participating communities plan “to provide outreach to the local bike shops for input on pricing, education, and outreach to inform users of the differences between an e-bike share program (commuting, shorter rides) and e-bike rental programs (longer excursions, multi-day usage, recreation, etc.).”