As public transit took a hit during the pandemic — ridership of subway trains alone declined 90 percent in New York City — cities began rolling out fleets of electric motor bikes, or e-bikes. And those bikes, it turns out, have skyrocketed in popularity, beginning to displace nonmotorized bikes in many places.
While e-bike sales are on the rise according to industry groups, they don’t account for the actual usage. Trip data from bike-share programs — a public system of shared bikes that charge a fee — may shed some light on their use.
An NBC News analysis of bike-share data from 11 of 13 cities that have comparable numbers shows that in May of last year, e-bikes accounted for only 11 percent of bike-share rides in cities surveyed, with 240,000 e-bike rides. Last month, they accounted for 38 percent of bike-share rides, ballooning to 1.4 million trips. The remaining 62 percent of rides were on conventional, nonmotorized bikes.
The data, provided by BCycle, Lyft and open data sources, shows that e-bike rides made up more than a quarter of bike-share trips in Philadelphia and about half of all bike-share rides in Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio. In the Bay Area, e-bikes accounted for more than 70 percent of bike-share trips.