The Boston bike share program is a big positive, in my mind. By encouraging more people to bike, it both makes the roads safer for cyclists and takes some strain off of existing infrastructure (roads, parking, public transit). I will say, as an experienced cyclist, having a bunch of people who don’t know what they’re doing on bikes has its problems, but to be honest clueless pedestrians are still a bigger problem.
I think the two issues with upgrading to e-bikes are infrastructure and theft. Having charging infrastructure not only costs more but also presents issues with bike availability. As an e-bike would require less power density than an electric car, some of these issues can be resolved, but I can envision a lot of complaints about lack of fully charged bikes being available at peak times.
Theft is an interesting question. In Boston, the distinctive looking and heavy bikes have theft deterrent built in in two ways: first, being distinctive and heavy, they aren’t appealing to conventional and opportunistic bike thieves. An obviously stolen city bike isn’t going to have as much black market value as some Schwinn you swiped off someone’s porch that can’t be traced. Second, the station infrastructure means that for every minute the bikes aren’t locked into a station, someone’s credit card is getting charged. That prevents the bikes from being left in insecure areas away from stations for any length of time.
Now, I’d imagine there are easy ways to prevent theft of the e-bikes, but the battery and motor does mean that the bike now has valuable parts that can be stripped…most bicycles aren’t stripped for parts, unlike cars and motorcycles, and those that are are typically quite high end. An electric bike does change that equation, though I can imagine some upfront investment can reduce this.
In the end, The idea of adding e-bikes to bike share programs is interesting vis a vis encouraging use. As a cyclist, though, I have no interest in opening up a bike share program with an already questionably trained userbase to a larger group of the lazy and even more ignorant.