Electric bikes will arrive on Kansas City’s streets in early December, joining the current fleet of electric scooters and ride sharing options available to residents.
The private, ride-sharing company Drop Mobility is providing the bikes. The company, along with its partners Ride KC and nonprofit bike advocacy group BikeWalkKC, unveiled the electric bikes Friday at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. The company will roll out 40 bikes through December, concentrating on the downtown area between the River Market and the Crossroads. The goal is to double the number of bikes each month until 150 bikes are in operation.
Drop Mobility CEO Qiming Wang said it was important to partner with local communities to provide the best experience.
“This is a space that’s really seeing a lot of change right now,” he said. “For the first time in a long time, I think people are seeing that cars may not be the solution for all their needs.”
Eric Vaughn, director of business services with BikeWalkKC, said the nonprofit regularly speaks with residents about their transportation needs.
“Something we’ve heard time and time again is they want more diversity, more options, and specifically, more electric modalities,” he said.
Unlike the bike sharing programs already operating in Kansas City, Drop bikes are outfitted with an electric assist motor and can be unlocked by using the Drop Mobility app. For new users, it costs $2 to unlock the bike, and the first 20 minutes are free. Riding a bike after the first 20 minutes costs 10 cents a minute. After using the bikes, riders can leave them at any bike rack in the city or any designated bike share station.
Eric Rogers, executive director at BikeWalkKC, said the bike’s electric motor would help riders on the Kansas City’s numerous hills.
“Kansas City is a hilly city,” he said. “And sometimes that can be a barrier for folks that would like to bike more. So we’re excited to provide this extra boost for them now.”
Similar to Lime and Bird, Drop is partnering with the city through an interim operating agreement, with the hope that the company can be included in the city’s shared active transportation pilot program next year. The plan would provide a framework for how companies like Lime, Bird and Drop can operate and comply with city rules.
Drop bikes are required to be ridden in bike lanes and not sidewalks, and users are supposed to follow the rules of the road. Joseph Blankenship, who works in the city's planning and development department, said the introduction of electric bikes could reflect the need for new and improved bike lanes.
“We have a variety of infrastructure needs all over the city — bike infrastructure is one of those needs,” he said. “And the more people on scooters and bikes, the more it’s indicative of the fact that we should support that mode through infrastructure.”
Vaughn said BikeWalkKC is focused on closing the first and last mile gap to help residents get to and from bus stops to their final destinations. He said this means placing bikes along Troost for residents on the Troost Max and the future Prospect Max lines.
“We want to make sure that these bikes are available anywhere that public transit goes and beyond that to make sure that we’re extending their service beyond the current footprint,” Vaughn said.
Celisa Calacal is an intern with KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @celisa_mia.