Three Sacramento-area cities will launch what they call one of the most sophisticated bike-share programs in the country next week - starring a fleet of 900 candy red motorized bikes that do half the pedaling.
The first 300 bikes are arriving in the next few days, and city officials in Sacramento, West Sacramento and Davis say the e-bikes will be on the streets next Thursday.
Each bike has an electric motor that kicks into action when a rider starts pedaling, giving a power assist up to 15 mph.
Users sign up for the bike-share system online or on their smartphone, then use a smartphone app to find and reserve the nearest available bike. Riders can use a bike as long as they want and drop it off within a given zone in each city. They will be allowed to drop it off outside the zone for an added fee.
In Sacramento, the initial zone includes the central city, Oak Park, East Sacramento and Sacramento State. In West Sacramento, it is the riverfront, City Hall, Broderick and Bryte areas. The Davis pick-up zone includes downtown and the UC Davis campus.
Rental rates are $1 for the first 15 minutes, and 7 cents every minute after that, or slightly more than $2 per half hour. For a $30 monthly fee, riders can use a bike for one hour daily. Usage after that first hour will be charged at 7 cents a minute.
College students can get a discount. The private company that operates the bikes is limiting use to people age 18 and older.
The program is expected to triple capacity to 900 bikes over the summer.
Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen calls the new bikes "a game changer" for an evolving downtown.
The cities, in cooperation with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, initially struggled for several years to bring the bikeshare concept to Sacramento. They landed a deal last year just as the burgeoning bikeshare industry was evolving from pedal bikes toward e-bikes.
"The time it has taken to get here has made us better off," Hansen said. "We have the most advanced system of almost any city."
Hansen said the combination of the bikeshare program along with Sacramento's handful of new parking-protected bike lanes downtown will make the central city a safer and easier place to bike.
"We are transforming our city into a bikeable, walkable urban center, a high-quality place to live and work," he said. "It's really another step in our city's evolution.
Chelsey Payne, a midtown resident who rides her bike to meetings as a planning consultant, was among the first to give a prototype a try this week.
She came away jazzed.
"That was really fun," Payne said, dismounting after cruising L Street next to the Capitol. "It was fast! I'm sold. I'm totally getting pedal-assist on my bike."
The biking rideshare has been popular in major cities, but also has stirred controversy in some cities where users at times leave bikes blocking sidewalks.
A.J. Tendick of SACOG said Sacramento users must lock the bike to a fixed object, such a bike rack or pole. "That should limit the bikes being in the way of pedestrians. " JUMP Bikes, the Brooklyn-based private company that owns the bikes and operates the system, will respond to complaints of improper parking, he said.
Other critics point out that the bikes do not come with helmets, which they say could increase crash injury risks, given that the bikes make it easy to ride at a brisk 15 mph. Some regular users, though, may bring their own helmets.
City officials say bikes, including e-bikes, should generally be ridden in the street, but cyclists are currently allowed on sidewalks. City officials say they soon will prohibit sidewalk biking in some areas where street riding is considered "low stress."
The state Department of Motor Vehicles says electric bicycles, similar to regular bikes, "are exempt from the motor vehicle financial responsibility, driver license and license plate requirements."
JUMP Bikes currently runs e-bike programs in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Sacramento is the third city with e-bikes and will be followed by Santa Cruz and Providence, R.I.
Speaking to The Bee last fall, JUMP Bikes head Ryan Rzepecki said electric-assist bikes increase the number of people willing to participate in bikeshare.
"It has transcended the regular biking population," he said. "It's newer, more advanced and more attractive, so you have more people who are willing to do it than ride a regular bike."
SACOG has invested $1.3 million for some upfront costs. JUMP will be responsible for the bike and docking station operational costs.
The location of docking stations has not yet been published, but officials said they will be placed in the coming weeks at areas where people tend to gather, including light rail and train stations.
The JUMP Bikes company is one of several private rideshare bike programs in cities nationally. SACOG officials said the deal with JUMP does not preclude other companies from entering the Sacramento market and competing with JUMP.