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Ford GoBike launching new electric bicycle service

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Julie Wood, a spokesperson for Motivate LLC, rides a new Ford GoBike Plus electric bicycle around Yerba Buena Gardens on Monday, April 23, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Ford GoBike is launching a new motorized bicycle service Tuesday with the rollout of 250 electric bikes across San Francisco.

Though to some the e-bikes may echo the recent wave of scofflaw e-scooters or Jump’s e-bikes, Ford GoBike has been noted by some officials for going the extra mile to work within the law: It obtained permits to place its 123 “docks” in San Francisco after negotiating an exclusivity contract with the Bay Area to provide dock-using rental bikes, instead of letting riders scatter them on sidewalks.

“Shared electric bikes can be the next step in San Francisco’s mobility future, creating a gateway to get even more people on two wheels,” said Ed Reiskin, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director of transportation, in a statement. “As a convenient and safe way to get around town, shared electric bikes will make our hilly neighborhoods more accessible and longer bike rides less daunting for everyone.”

With cooperation in mind, the e-bike launch Tuesday is a toe-dip, said Julie Wood, a spokeperson with Motivate, that operates Ford GoBike.

“We’re really excited to see how it goes,” she said. “We’re not calling it a pilot, because we don’t want it to end, it’s not a temporary thing.” But, she added, Motivate will “evaluate” how they handle recharging the bikes, and how easily they can recirculate them through the system’s 123 docking stations, so they know they can handle a larger volume of e-bikes.

Those black e-bikes will differ from the traditional blue Ford GoBikes, and are branded as Ford GoBike Plus. They can be unlocked with the same Clipper card used for Muni buses, or by cellphone app. Those e-bikes are powered by 345 Wh Li-ion battery and an LCD display that allows riders to track their speed and battery charge level, and boosts a bicycle’s speed by 18mph.

That extra oomph packs a punch, said Wood, who noted that these e-bikes can easily conquer San Francisco’s famous hills.

“The motor is more powerful,” Wood said. “I rode one of our e-bikes on Potrero Hill Friday … the bike had no problem at all.”

That power jump may also extend the range that people take bicycles in San Francisco, she said. Motivate’s data shows people take their bicycles an average distance of 1.6 miles. But Wood said Motivate expects the bikes to be used at three to five mile ranges.

And though Motivate did not say when they would expand their e-bike fleet, Wood simply answered, “we hope soon.”

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