You may have heard that Park City and Summit County are launching an e-bike program on July 14. There will be various stations setup across the Basin, where you can rent a Summit E-Bike for a short period. The thought is that tourists will use the e-bike and rely less on a car. The hope is that the resident will use the e-bike to drive to work or use it to get from the bus stop to work.
Residents can buy an annual pass for $90 that lets them rent the bike for 1.5 hours at a time. Otherwise, you can rent the bike in 45 minute chunks.The price varies depending on which shorter term pass you buy (monthly, weekly, daily, or per ride). As an example, for the per-ride, you can rent a bike for 45 minutes for $2.
My question has always been “how good will the bike be”? Today I got a first glimpse at the answer. As part of the launch of electric buses for the transit system, the city and county offered free rides on the e-bikes arriving July 14 today. I took advantage of that offer.
The company providing the service is out of Quebec and is called Bewegen. Therefore, the test unit was very Canadian. The Bewegen rep said that production models would be in US format (i.e. miles instead of kilometers). She also said that their bikes travelled about 50 miles on a charge, depending on how a person rode the bike and how charged up the bike was when you started.
So, how was the experience?
It was OK.
I’ve been riding various Pedego E-bikes for about 2.5 years. I take my kids to school on the e-bike. I pick up Pizza on my e-bike. I go to the grocery on my e-bike. I love e-bikes. I firmly believe that e-bikes (and related vehicles) are a cornerstone of providing a better transportation experience in the Snyderville Basin. They are flexible and on-demand.
My initial conclusion, albeit after only a few minutes, is that the Summit County E-bike is almost a different product from the e-bike you may buy at a store. It is industrial. It is rock solid. It is made to last in the rain. It may even last a nuclear attack from North Korea. But it does not provide the comfort you would get in a Pedego, Radwagon, or iZip. The Summit County bike is a little jarring as you pedal. It doesn’t provide the power that a regular e-bike does on hills. It feel a little like you are pedaling a motor scooter.
So, it is not as nice as what you might buy. That said, when y0u rent a car at Avis it isn’t usually as nice as your car at home.
Also, given our tough weather, this bike has to be durable. The rain, the snow (in June), the wind, and the sun all take their toll.
There is a tradeoff. You can’t have a plush experience from a bike and expect that bike to also sit out in the weather.
I’m a little torn. I want e-bikes to survive in Park City. I had hoped that the Summit E-bike program would encourage people to buy their own bike. I’m not sure that will happen. The Summit E-bike is just not the same smile-inducing experience that you get from an e-bike you would buy. For example, if I wanted to go from Tanger to Smith’s (two rental stops) I could go through the trouble of renting the bike but I would probably walk for that distance. If I wanted to go from Smith’s to the Canyons (two of the rental stops) that may take 10-15 minutes to ride, but the comfort just isn’t quite there. I might do it if I really wanted to attend a concert and had a way to ensure a bike was available for the ride back. That said, the 10-15 minute ride is probably the sweet spot for this service.
If we take it any farther, say Smith’s at the junction to PCMR, I can’t imagine riding the bike that far. The seat was too uncomfortable for that.
Likewise, I rode my Pedego from Jeremy Ranch up to the Utah Olympic Park this morning for their Slip ‘n Soar (a fun experience by the way… next one is July 4). It was some work heading up that hill, even with the massive amount of pedal assist that the Pedego Stretch is capable of. I don’t think I could have done it on the Summit E-bike rental. It just didn’t seem to have enough power.
All in all I applaud Summit County and Park City for looking outside the bus for other transportation solutions. I’ll be interested to see how the e-bike share works out. There is a lot of money invested in it (some of which is a grant), so it had better work out. That said, I won’t be trading in my Pedego for a $90 a year pass for a rental. Although my Pedego costs many times more than that, it’s a superior experience.
I’d recommend you try out the e-bike share next month. If you enjoy the experience at all, then go into the Pedego store near Sammy’s Bistro (and White Pine) in Park City and try one of their bikes. We guarantee that if you liked the bike share, you’ll love a real e-bike.
Likewise, maybe the Summit Bike share is good enough to meet your needs. In that case, please use it up. You’ll get a little work-out, have a different perspective on our community, and reduce traffic … for a reasonable cost.
Overall, I guess I was hoping that the bike share may be the gateway drug that gets people into e-bikes. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it will get you high enough.