"Sustainability Amidst Competition: MetroBike, an eBike Success Story"
Article by Doogie Roux, Bosch eBike Systems Ambassador
Austin BCycle was one of the most successful bike share programs in the nation. From its start in 2013, the program expanded greatly and saw increased ridership numbers year after year. Then, the competition showed up. Dockless bikes arrived first in 2018. Then, it was scooters, and mopeds after that. By late 2019, there were close to a dozen newer micromobility options in the city, and traditional bike share was not high on the popularity list. “We were on track to see one of our most successful years ever, said Diego Martinez-Moncada, Executive Director at Bike Share of Austin, “but the impact of the competition was so great that we went the opposite direction.”
There was a way for traditional bike share to keep up and compete with the hip and newer micromobility options that had descended upon the city, and that was the Bosch powered eBike. In 2017, Austin BCycle had a small pilot with 10 eBikes. Much like other BCycle cities, the eBikes were ridden at least twice as often as non-electric BCycles. Diego further explained, “We brought in additional partners that could help us achieve the dream of bringing in a fleet of eBikes. We proceeded to strengthen our relationship with the city of Austin and then we partnered with Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority. With that we were able to get the eBikes.”
More challenges arose in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic situation worsened and the SXSW event was cancelled, but the team pushed forward. Austin BCycle was rebranded as MetroBike. The new partnership integrated the bike share system into the public transit system to create a synergy of increased ridership across both systems. With around 200 Bosch-powered eBikes in their fleet, things started to shift. “When COVID-19 hit, almost all of the other micromobility operators pulled out of the city. We did see a decrease in ridership in March and April of 2020,” said Diego “but from May through the end of the year, we consistently beat our ridership numbers from the previous year due to the eBike.”
MetroBike currently has just over 350 eBikes. They are ridden 3 to 4 times more often than their non-electric bikes. There are plans to ultimately electrify the entire fleet and incorporate more use of eBikes and electric vehicles for program operations. “We hope that our future maintenance vehicle purchases are electric as opposed to being gas powered,” Diego explained. “Any alternatives that we can find to a gas-powered vehicle to run operations is definitely something that we’re looking at.” When asked what his favorite things about eBikes were, Diego answered, “The ease of use. There’s a fun factor as well, and riders like just how much further they can get on them. The eBikes brought the program a sense of newness and sustainability.”