2019 ‘a banner year’ for Madison’s electric bike-share program

511,106 pounds of carbon were offset through Madison BCycle's e-bike trips last year.
An electric BCycle in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol building with cars and a person walking blurred out between the two
(Photo courtesy of BCycle)

Last year, Madison BCycle recorded 231,412 trips on the bike-sharing company’s electric bicycle fleet, which is a 124% growth from 2018 and the highest numbers its seen to date.

The company, owned by Trek Bicycle Corp., released its 2019 Annual Report earlier this year and shared statistics that demonstrate its growth. The miles biked last year — 537,923 miles, which equals about 21 trips around the globe — offset 511,106 pounds of carbon, the equivalent of planting 10,648 new trees and saving almost 26,000 gallons of gas. The high mileage numbers came the same year BCycle replaced its traditional bicycle fleet with 300 e-bikes. Executive Director Lisa Snyder says the company plans to add another 100 e-bikes in 2020.

“The amount of interest and engagement in Madison BCycle across the community and beyond has been incredible,” Synder notes in the annual report.

In 2019, Madison became the first city in the country to fully convert its bike-share system to an all-electric bike fleet, and conclusions based on data from BCycle’s report indicate that these e-bikes are driving ridership. The city of Madison had the highest utilization of any bike-share system in the country. The pedal-assisted e-bikes allow users to travel farther and faster, up to 17 miles per hour.

People aren’t hopping on just e-bikes, either. Bicycle usage has increased dramatically over the past 15 years or so, especially in Madison. Seven thousand-plus Madison citizens bike to work and school. In 2019, both the city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin–Madison were awarded platinum-level status as a Bike Friendly Community and a Bike Friendly University, respectively, by the League of American Bicyclists. In 2016, our city topped the list of Midwestern locations with the highest percentage of commuters who biked to work, and seventh in the nation overall. U.S. Census data from the same year indicate that about 3.6% of commuters in the Madison area ride a bicycle to their job, and 5.5% of commuters in the city of Madison do the same.

Biking to your destination is efficient, and it’s a simple way to help reduce your carbon footprint. But it is also quite easy to take advantage of in such a bike-friendly place like Madison. The city is currently connected by a vast, intersecting bikeway network consisting of off-street, shared-use paths, on-street bike lanes and local streets. This system is further strengthened by the 2015 Bicycle Transportation Plan, which helps city planners visualize the bikeway infrastructure, address any gaps that may exist and prioritize improvements for bicyclists’ trips. The area also boasts a hearty mix of urban trails and forest routes, like the Monona Loop, the UW Arboretum Trails and Lakeshore Path, the Badger State Trail and many more.

If you don’t own a bike and are looking to use one of BCycle’s new e-bikes, make sure you know where you can and cannot ride. Up until recently, e-bikes were regulated in the same way as gas-powered motor bikes, which are banned from bike paths and require operators to carry a valid driver’s license. However, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill last November to alter e-bike regulations to align with their growing use. New legislation will treat e-bikes as regular bicycles, with local governments able to restrict use on certain bike paths.