The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) last week expanded its dockless bikeshare program by making “e-bikes” available in North Bethesda. The County established a pilot dockless bikeshare program in Silver Spring and Takoma Park last year.
During the first year of the pilot period, adjustments to the program were made based on public input that greatly reduced the number of reported concerns. Town hall meetings were held in October and November to seek community input on the feasibility of expanding the program. An online survey posted on MCDOT’s website received nearly 200 responses.
The expanded area will generally range from Seven Locks Road on the west, Montrose Road on the north, Veirs Mill Road on the east and Beach Drive on the south. More information about the expanded program, including a map of the service areas, is available at the Montgomery BikeShare website.
Representatives from two companies, LimeBike and Bird, made presentations at the recent public meetings. LimeBike offers e-bikes as well as e-scooters; Bird offers only e-scooters. LimeBike has been permitted to extend operations into the expanded pilot area with pedal-assist, electric “e-bikes.” The company has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Montgomery County that spells out operational and performance requirements. The County also has been studying a program to include e-scooters. That concept remains under review.
Dockless electric bikes are not allowed to operate on Montgomery County park trails, must be operated within the pilot area and are not permitted to end trips or park in County villages and towns that do not opt into the expanded program.
Those interested in using the GPS-enabled e-bicycles can register through a smartphone app that then allows users to locate, unlock and lock the bikes and pay for rides. Riders must obey bicycle laws and are encouraged to wear helmets and reflective items.
The evaluation of the initial phase of the pilot program found that it was quite successful in providing short, point-to-point trips. Riders took a total of about 18,000 trips over a six-month period using bikes from the companies operating in the pilot area. Most trips were conducted within the pilot area boundaries. Incidents of improper parking of the bikes reduced over time as the companies improved their “in-app” communications and users became more familiar with the rules. During a six-week observation period, bikes were found to be in good operating condition.