Burlington's bike share system to upgrade with electric bikes

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Burlington's bike share system is getting a 21st-century upgrade.

The city plans to replace the current fleet of 105 traditional bikes into 200 electric bikes. They hope the updated bikes will be another way for people to commute around the city, freeing up parking and getting people outside.

"We are pretty excited about them being here. We think it will get more people out of their cars which is one of our missions," said Karen Yacos, the executive director of Local Motion.

There are two ways Local Motion is encouraging people to try e-bikes. One way is by renting them out and the other is by lending them out for free, for one week.

"We've had something like 25 percent of the people who have gone through the e-bike lending library have actually bought their own, which is cool," said Yacos.

With 200 e-bikes coming to Burlington, Local Motion isn't too worried it will affect their business. In fact, Yacos says the clientele will be different. People renting from Local Motion will be doing longer trips, mainly staying on the bike path, while the bike share system is intended for locals and people commuting around Burlington.

"The goals are to get people from where they live to where they need to be," said Yacos.

She says where the bikes go and are stored for the public is important but the price is also key. No price has been set and the city says there will be no cost to taxpayers.

The city also says there will be quick trip prices, month prices and annual prices and they expect it will be affordable.

Because e-bikes are electric, we asked Ross Saxton from Local Motion if he thought it was cheating out on a workout.

"They really aren't, because you are still pedaling, you just get to your destination with a little less sweat," said Saxton.

Some say they just feel like an extra assist and refer to that assist as a "tailwind," while others refer to that assist as being pulled. Either way, folks can ride a million times and not be out of breath.

"It doesn't change the experience that much. I think for a lot of people it means they can actually bike, or they can bike further or they can bike easier. Some people, it's not as easy for them to bike on a regular bike for very long," Yacos said.

Burlington Public Works officials say they really hope e-bikes will help address the congestion issue in Burlington and expand transportation choices in an affordable way.