Healthy Ride is replacing entire bike fleet with electrified bicycles and mobility hubs

Pittsburgh's bike-share program, Healthy Ride, is undergoing a multi-million dollar makeover next year through the replacement of its entire 500-bicycle fleet and renewed infrastructure. The transition puts Pittsburgh in line with the growing list of cities around the country adding e-bikes to their public bike share programs like Madison, WI, Charlotte, NC, and Chicago, IL.


Motivated by the immediate need to adapt two major problems present themselves this year: Internet carriers will shut down the 3G network which Healthy Ride relies on to operate, and the bike manufacturer will no longer be doing business in North America, leaving Pittsburgh (the last city to use those bikes) with no way to obtain parts needed to maintain the existing fleet.


According to Healthy Ride Executive Director David White, those challenges gave the program an opportunity to build on its experience and relaunch the network with big improvements next year. In May, Healthy Ride was awarded $750,000 from Heinz Endowments to assist its transition to electric-assist bicycles. The Pittsburgh Bike Share Electrification and Mobility Hubs Project is being supported with a $900,000 award from the U.S. DOT's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, and a $225,000 grant from the city.


Roughly half of the new 500-bike fleet will be electric, providing a smart new way for people to get around the city's hills and make traveling long distances easier. To accommodate the changes, Healthy Ride is removing 50 of its existing 105 stations this winter and next spring, with 68 new, larger stations in place by the end of 2022. The new stations will have room to dock regular bicycles, the new electric bicycles, and stand-on scooters. Some of the stations will be connected to the electric grid, as well, allowing the new electric bikes to charge when docked.


Healthy Ride stations today are located in 24 different Pittsburgh neighborhoods and they claim to have 112,500 registered users since the system's launch in 2015 with around 507,000 bike trips taken as of December 31, 2020.


According to WESA, a coalition of riders and customers, community development corporations, Port Authority, and government leaders guided Healthy Ride's decision about which stations to remove. Equity and access will continue to guide the program in the year ahead, White said. "We are going to prioritize the neighborhoods that have been traditionally cut off by transportation choices in Pittsburgh." Near year, Healthy Ride also plans to launch a program to offer more affordable rates to people with lower incomes.


Over the next 5 years, Healthy Ride hopes to increase the size of its network from 500 today to as many as 2,500, citing that the current system is undersized given the demand from the city and when compared to national trends. White says that the goal is to ensure there is zero time during the station overhaul when the system is entirely offline, and that the removal of stations will be done in a way that preserves the greatest amount of access to the largest number of people through the whole process.