On Tuesday, December 4, the Berkeley City Council voted to approve bringing more shared electric scooters to Berkeley. In addition, while Ford GoBikes have been operating in Berkeley since July 2017, many of them have been upgraded to the newer electric Ford GoBike Plus.
In the last ten years, alternatives to driving have gained popularity. Ride sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft are widely-used. They especially appeal to students, such as Berkeley High School (BHS) students, who do not have a car or license. Recently, however, new transportation alternatives have been taking the form of bikes and scooters, rather than cars. These new alternatives also appeal to BHS students. Electric scooter companies, such as Lime and Bird, provide transportation alternatives around the world. Focused on the idea that all communities should have affordable and fun transportation options, these companies have also gained popularity because they are eco-friendly and easily accessible.
The December 4 Berkeley City Council vote means that three scooter companies will be allowed to provide 400 scooters each in Berkeley starting in 2019, for a trial period. Kriss Worthington, Berkeley City Council member and senior advisor to the mayor of Berkeley, wrote the council referral to initiate the scooters. “Scooter companies will be able to apply to compete for three franchise agreements,” Worthington said. “The City Manager will present the recommendation for up to three companies for a vote of Council on which three win the franchise agreements.” Once approved, these scooters will be available to rent by downloading an app. They will be available for use all around Berkeley.
BHS students have already been using and enjoying electric scooters. Eli Bamberger, a sophomore at BHS, uses Lime scooters several times a week to get to school. “I ride electric scooters almost every other day … I use them because it feels exhilarating to go fast on the street,” Bamberger said. “I like weaving in between cars,” he added.
Along with electric scooters, BHS students have also enjoyed using Ford GoBikes. Since 2013, Ford GoBikes has been a bicycle sharing system available to the public in the Bay Area. As an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to driving, Ford GoBikes are popular. They are extremely accessible; anyone can download an app or use a Clipper Card to unlock and use a bike located at any of the several stations across the Bay Area.
In April, the ebikes were brought to Berkeley. “Jason Overman represented GoBikes and provided Berkeley excellent customer service in bringing electric bikes to Berkeley,” Worthington said. Overman’s presentation and customer service were so smooth and fast, that “the City Council never had to vote to ask GoBike to do this,” Worthington added.
In 2019, Ford is introducing new pedal-assist bikes to their stations in the Bay Area. These new ebikes, Ford GoBike Plus, further broaden the accessibility and user audience for this transportation alternative. Equipped with motors that increase pedaling power, these new bikes will appeal to those who do not want to use as much physical effort. It also appeals to users who frequently ride uphill, as well as those who wish to remain sweat free. These upgrades will overall benefit and appeal to those who wish to travel farther in less time. They will be useful for users of all ages. The GoBike Plus ebikes will be available at any of the 124 bike stations around the Bay Area, including the station across the street from BHS, on Allston Way.
“I’m very excited to try out the Ford GoBike Plus,” said BHS sophomore Noah DeLay. DeLay has used regular Ford GoBike bikes in the past, and favors them over Uber or the bus because of their cost and convenience. “It’s great how affordable and easy the bikes are,” said DeLay. As a student who lives far from campus, DeLay relies on public transportation to get him to school on time. “Instead of waiting for the bus, which can be unreliable, the bikes or Lime scooters can take me straight to BART and then to school,” DeLay said.
The introduction of electric scooters and ebikes in Berkeley is very exciting to many students in the BHS community. “These new updates will continue to improve my transportation to and around Berkeley, and it’s great how easy they are,” DeLay said.