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Electric Bluebikes Have Arrived in Boston

City officials say that they plan to have about 750 electric bikes mixed into the system by the end of January, to augment the existing fleet of over 4,000 non-electric bikes.

A young black woman with glasses and a black puffy winter coat and a young Hispanic woman in a blue winter coat holding up two fingers in a peace sign pedal on new electric Bluebikes through City Hall Plaza. Behind them are rows of more new bikes and office buildings in the distance.

Makayla Comas of the LivableStreets Alliance (left, foreground) and former StreetsblogMASS reporter Grecia White of the City of Boston (right) try out the new electric Bluebikes in City Hall Plaza on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023.

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It's going to be a little bit easier to pedal around greater Boston in 2024: this afternoon, the operators of the Bluebikes system added its first pedal-assist electric bikes to docking stations in downtown Boston and in Cambridge.

60 new electric bikes were added to the fleet on Wednesday, after an informal press event in Boston's City Hall Plaza. Those bikes are available to ride now, and will be free for the duration of Wednesday for Bluebikes users who use the promotional code "ELECTRICBLUE23".

Users can find our where the new bikes are by looking for docks with lightning-bolt icons on the Bluebikes map.

City officials say that they plan to have about 750 electric bikes mixed into the system by the end of January, to augment the existing fleet of over 4,000 non-electric bikes.

Although Boston and Cambridge took the lead on funding the purchase of the new bikes, they'll be available to use throughout the Bluebikes service area.

10 cents per minute for Bluebikes members

The new electric bikes will carry additional charges, and not just in their batteries.

If you're a Bluebikes member, the extra help from the electric motor will cost 10 cents per minute of your ride. Income-eligible riders enrolled in the discounted fare program will pay 7 cents per minute.

For riders who use single-trip passes or the daily Adventure Pass, the electric bikes will cost an additional 25 cents per minute of each ride.

To put those prices into context, if you borrow an electric bike at Roxbury Crossing to get some extra help going over Mission Hill on your way to the Longwood Medical Area, that mile-long trip will probably take you about 5 minutes and cost you an extra 50 cents if you're a member, or $1.25 if you're using a single-ride pass.

Swappable batteries, no shifting

The new bikes bear some notable differences from their analog predecessors.

An LCD screen in a gray plastic housing displays battery life and a timer that displays the ride time. Text at the bottom of the screen reads "Done riding? Dock at a station to end."
A close-up of the screen on the new electric Bluebikes. During a ride, the screen displays the remaining range of the battery, and the duration of your trip.

An LCD screen in the middle of the handlebars (pictured at right) displays the trip's duration and how much range is left in the battery.

The batteries store one kilowatt-hour's worth of power – enough to assist riders for roughly 40 miles.

There's also no gearshift on the new bikes. Instead, the electric motor detects how hard you're pedaling, and kicks in with extra power on hills.

A Bluebikes spokesperson at Wednesday's launch event told StreetsblogMASS that the new bikes have swappable batteries and wireless communications that can alert operators when they need a fresh battery.

E-bikes with drained batteries won't be available to check out again until Bluebikes staff have a chance to swap it out for a freshly-charged battery.

A crowd of people stand with new electric bikes in front of Boston City Hall
Municipal staff and advocates pose with the new fleet of electric Bluebikes in front of Boston City Hall on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023.

Property of City Hall

As we've reported previously, Lyft, the company that contracts with Boston-area municipalities to operate the Bluebikes network, has been offering pedal-assist e-bikes in most of the other systems that it operates across the country, including Citi Bike in New York, Divvy in Chicago, and Capital Bikeshare in Washington.

But similar technology had been slow to arrive in the Boston region thanks to regulatory uncertainty and the logistics of sharing the costs of the new equipment among the numerous municipal-government-owners of the Bluebikes system.

The Bluebikes system is jointly owned by the Cities of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Everett, and the Town of Brookline. Lyft handles the system’s day-to-day operations, and the manufacturing of the bikes and docks, but these municipalities own the bikes and the stations.

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