Vail e-bike program finding success in second attempt
After a lackluster pilot program in 2020, this year's more ambitious effort is finding many more riders
After a so-so electric bike rental pilot program in 2020, the town of Vail, along with Avon and EagleVail, decided to go bigger this year. The results so far have been more positive.
The three entities this year put roughly $250,000 into an ambitious e-bike rental program. Vail picked up 70% of that amount, and received a proportionate number of bikes and charging stations. That means Vail received 60 bikes and 12 charging stations around town. The contractor is Drop Mobility, which also runs a program in Colorado Springs.
- 60: Vail’s share of this year’s regional e-bike program.
- 90: Total bikes available between Vail, Avon and EagleVail.
- 2,025: Trips taken in Vail between June 7 and July 7.
- $174,400: Vail’s 70% share in this year’s program.
Through the first month in Vail — June 7 through July 7 — users took 2,025 total trips, rolling up nearly 6,000 miles on those trips. Those first-month numbers far outstrip the numbers recorded during the 10-week pilot program in 2020. That first program had just 12 bikes and six charging stations.
The bikes can be unlocked via a phone app. Charges are assessed a few different ways, via either memberships or on a per-ride basis. Vail Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Beth Markham said the intent was to aim the program at locals, not visitors, adding that charges are meant to be cost-prohibitive for people to check out the bikes for a half or whole day. Someone riding from East Vail to Vail Village — a trip of roughly 30 minutes — is charged only for the time on the bike.
Vail Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Beth Markham, who runs the town’s program, said there have been a few cases of users leaving bikes at a regular bike rack, meaning the time charges are still running. Markham said Drop Mobility has been working with those first-time errors to drop the additional time charges.
First time around
The 2020 pilot program probably wasn’t ambitious enough, Markham said. There weren’t many bikes, and just one company tech in town to solve problems.
That’s changed this year. Markham said there’s a locally-based team for the bike fleet, adding that technicians are usually able to quickly respond to problems. Of course, getting to East Vail from Wildridge in Avon is going to take some time.
Users seem satisfied with the new system.
Vail resident Kim Rediker sent an email to the town stating that “The bikes are easy to use, readily available and fun to ride,” adding that the hub stations are “well positioned throughout the community.”
Fellow Vail resident Samantha Biszantz echoed those remarks.
“I love the new e-bike program!” Biszantz wrote, adding that she’d like to see more hub stations and relocate some.
That might happen this year, or next, Markham said.
Markham added that if the program continues, she’d like to look into the prospect of adding some cargo bikes to the fleet. That might make grocery or other shopping a little easier, she said, adding she’s seen users wearing backpacks or hanging shopping bags from a bike’s handlebars.
Vail Town Council member Jen Mason tried the pilot program in 2020 and had some trouble with the system.
Mason, the director of the Colorado Snowsports Museum in Vail Village, now has her own e-bike to commute from her West Vail home to her office in the Vail Village Transportation Center.
Mason said she’s been enjoying her own bike — including a variation of a child carrier so her dog can come to work with her — but has heard positive reviews of the new system, adding that she believes this year’s program is public money well spent.
Noting the thousands of miles ridden in the program’s first few weeks, Mason noted those are miles ridden instead of driven. And, while Vail’s free public transit system is handy for many residents, the option of hopping on a bike means “you can go when you want to go and leave when you want.”
Mason said she’s happy to see the system connecting with Avon and EagleVail. Markham noted officials are working to expand the system into Edwards and Minturn.
A trip to Avon can be pretty quick, Markham said, noting that she recently rode to Avon in about 30 minutes, with the return, uphill, trip to Vail taking about another 10 minutes.
Mason said she hopes the rest of the council will agree to participate next year.
“I really like the program, she said. “It’s a fun way to get to work.”
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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