Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger at Friday's event
A multi-year effort to expand and electrify a bike-sharing system in the Burlington area is getting a boost.
On Friday, Greenride Bikeshare announced that it had completed its long-awaited goal of replacing its 105 pedal bikes with 200 electric-assist ones in an effort to make the pay-as-you-go system easier and more convenient. The company also plans to double its locations in Burlington, South Burlington and Winooski — up to an eventual 30 — to ensure riders have some extra power as they traverse the hilly local landscape.
"We've doubled the fleet, made it more fun to ride and easier to get around," said Bryan Davis, senior transportation planner at the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, one of numerous organizations that helped launch the bike-share system three years ago.
Chittenden County officials celebrated the development during a Friday press event at one of Greenride's first hubs, on North Winooski Avenue in Burlington's Old North End. They called the e-bike rollout an important step toward increasing alternative transportation options and reducing environmental footprints.
"Particularly here in Burlington, these bikes will be powered with Burlington Electric Department's 100 percent renewable energy," Mayor Weinberger said, adding that roughly every three trips on one of the bikes replaces one car trip. "Every time we do that, we reduce our emissions."
Funded primarily through local corporate sponsors, the Greenride system was launched in 2018 as a partnership between the cities of Burlington, South Burlington and Winooski as well as Champlain College, the University of Vermont, the Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association and the regional planning commission.
The system allows users to reserve bikes using a mobile app, ride them and return them to designated hubs. Current pricing options listed on the system's website include a pay-as-you-go feature — $1 to unlock the bike and 35 cents for each minute thereafter — and a $100 annual plan geared toward commuters that provides 30 minutes of free ride time per day.
Since its launch, riders have taken 20,000 trips and covered more than 60,000 miles, according to Davis, who said that same mileage in a car would have cost an estimated $35,000 and contributed 54,000 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere.
Gotcha, a South Carolina firm that operated the system until this year, announced plans in 2019 to replace the 105 existing pedal bikes with 200 electric-assist ones. But technical difficulties with the system's mobile app, coupled with supply chain delays and increased costs due to the Trump administration's trade dispute with China, delayed the e-bike expansion — and the pandemic only worsened matters.
Florida-based startup Bolt Mobility acquired Gotcha earlier this year and was willing to continue the project. The company has yet to request additional funding but has expressed interest in finding more local sponsors, Davis said.
"They want to be a member of the community and to have relationships with like-minded businesses that are concerned about equity and sustainability," Davis said.
Greenride currently has 18 hubs across the three cities, including at the Burlington International Airport, downtown Winooski, the University Mall and the campuses of Champlain College and UVM. The system is now working to bring a dozen more online, increasing coverage in Burlington's north and south ends while also adding hubs in Winooski and South Burlington.
Eventually, the system might even expand further into Chittenden County, Davis said, naming Shelburne, Williston and Essex as potential hosts. But for now, officials seem quite relieved to have gotten this far. Referring to the previous delays, Davis said, "We're really glad that we stuck it out."