On Tuesday, June 18th, Madison BCycle launched the first all-electric city-wide bikeshare program in the country. In partnership with Trek Bicycle and the City of Madison, the bikeshare program debuted the new electric bicycles in a lively kick-off event held at the Madison Municipal Building.
In remarks to the crowd, City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway spoke about the importance of the transition to an electric bikeshare system as a measure to increase the accessibility of bikeshare and bicycle transportation generally to Madison residents. The option of the electric “boost” on these bicycles, which can be switched on and off, assists riders in navigating routes of greater distances or elevation changes by reducing physical strain.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway observed that the health, environmental, and congestion relief benefits of bicycles extend to e-bikes. These benefits accrue to everyone in the community, whether they ride, drive motor vehicles, or stay home. The mayor also called on all involved to ensure that the benefits of bike share systems, bike infrastructure, and other transportation investments benefit everyone in our community, including those without smartphones, bank accounts, or drivers licenses.
Trek Bicycle President John Burke and Madison BCycle Executive Director Morgan Ramaker emphasized their commitment to a strong partnership with the city and to expanding access to e-bikes throughout the Madison area. Ramaker committed Madison BCycle to host events later in the year at local organizations where community members can learn more about and test out the bicycles.
A host of attendees then joined the Mayor and President Burke on a ride of the new e-bike fleet around the State Capitol. From there, smaller groups of riders rode the new bicycles to bikeshare stations throughout the city, where they were immediately available for public use.
In Wisconsin, current state law doesn’t recognize modern electric bicycles, leaving them in a regulatory gray area. The Wisconsin Bike Fed is leading the stakeholder organizations working with state government to pass an “e-bike bill,” — Senate Bill 129 / Assembly 132 — which defines e-bikes as a new type of vehicle and regulates them like other bicycles. In May, the Bike Fed organized a Bicycle Leadership Day at the Capitol, with electric bicycle demonstrations for legislators and staff on the Capitol Concourse. Attendees also met with legislators, state agency leaders, and the governor’s staff, and were on hand as the e-bike bill was passed unanimously out of committee to the full Senate.
With strong support for the e-bike bill throughout state government, the full Wisconsin Assembly passed the bill in June. The Wisconsin Senate is expected to concur this fall, sending the bill to Governor Evers’ desk. When the bill is signed into law, e-bikes will emerge from their legal uncertainty, and Wisconsin’s bicycle industry will be able to extend the transportation, health, economic, and environmental benefits of bicycles to even more people. Please watch this space for updates on that legislation.