Madison Electric BCycle Launch

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.

Photo: Gillian McBride

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.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway addresses a crowd from a podium.

City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway speaks about the importance of an electric bikeshare system in term of expanding accessibility to more users. Photo: Gillian McBride

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.

Madison BCycle Executive Director Morgan Ramaker speaking at a podium.

Madison BCycle Executive Director Morgan Ramaker emphasizing their commitment to a strong partnership with the city. Photo: Gillian McBride

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.

Groups of riders assembled to distribute the e-bikes to BCycle stations around Madison. Photo: Gillian McBride

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.

Bicycle leaders and legislators posing for group photo in office.

Bicycle leaders with Senator Petrowski, Transportation Committee Chair (center back row). Photo courtesy of the office of Senator Jerry Petrowski

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.

3 thoughts on “Madison Electric BCycle Launch

  1. Is this regulation of E-bikes, or de-regulation of same? As a longtime user of bike paths, tralis and lanes, I feel these overweight, overspeed vehicles, driven by newcomers who do not understand how to ride, and when to cede the right of way to others on the road, are a danger to cyclists. I’m at a loss to understand why bikefed has taken them up as the holy Grail.

    • Except for a few requirements for Class 3 e-bikes (must have a speedometer, rider must be at least 16 years old), this is not regulation or deregulation. Rather, the bill defines e-bikes separately from regular bikes and “motor bicycles”, where they fall under current law. The bill allows municipalities, counties, the DNR, and other agencies to regulate e-bikes very precisely by class, and treats them by default as regular bicycles.

  2. Props for the e-bike bikeshare but it isn’t the first such system in the country. Bellevue, WA, launched in June 2018 with the requirement that any bikeshare operators had to use all e-bikes..

    Barb Chamberlain
    Director, Active Transportation Division
    WA State Dept. of Transportation

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