Bay Area-bike sharing company Ford GoBike announced that it will deploy 500 pedal-assist electric bikes or e-bikes throughout the East Bay starting Friday.

The e-bikes will be the first electrically powered bikes to be available for rent in the East Bay via a bike sharing app, rather than traditional private rental at local bike shops.

The company’s e-bikes, known as the Ford GoBike Plus, should be fully available at the company’s 127 docking stations throughout Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville by next week, according to a company spokeswoman. The e-bikes will replace 500 pedal-only bikes at the stations and the size of the Ford GoBike East Bay fleet will remain at 1,500.

The East Bay is receiving e-bikes almost eight months after Ford GoBike-parent company Motivate piloted 250 e-bikes in San Francisco in April. According to the company, now owned by car sharing company Lyft, the e-bikes have proven extremely popular with riders there, with each e-bike getting roughly three times as many rides as a regular pedal bike.

The company is also adding 600 e-bikes in San Francisco and 120 in San Jose. The total number of e-bikes available via Ford GoBike will be more than 1,400 throughout the region.

Due to an exclusive contract between Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and Motivate, no other bike sharing company has been able to operate bike or e-bike sharing in these cities. Earlier in the year, several of the cities had formally requested that Motivate deploy e-bikes in their cities within 90 days or  allow third parties to do so. However, they were asked by the MTC to wait and give Ford GoBike time to deploy the bikes as part of a coherent, regional bike sharing system.

Ford GoBike will unveil its new East Bay e-bike fleet at an inaugural ride at 10 a.m. on Friday at the 23rd Street and Telegraph Avenue docking station in Oakland. The mayors of Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley will be in attendance, as will the director of Oakland’s Department of Transportation, and representatives from Bike East Bay, Ford GoBike and Lyft, which bought Ford GoBike’s parent company Motivate in July.

So-called mobility devices, such as electric-powered bikes and scooters, herald a new way of thinking about streets, their uses and their design, according to Dave Campbell, advocacy director of Bike East Bay.

“These personal-sized mobility devices are going to force the hand of the traffic engineers to start designing streets for people and not for cars,” he said. “We still have traffic engineers who first and foremost think about the cars and anything that’s left over is for bikes or pedestrians.”

Unlike e-scooters that are fully electric, the Ford GoBike Plus assists a rider’s own pedaling with its motor and will actually turn off if the rider stops. The power assist allows riders to go up hills with less effort, ride faster, and generally sweat less.

According to the company, the Ford GoBike Plus can reach speeds of up to 18 miles per hour and travel for 35 miles before needing a fresh battery. The bikes can be returned to any available docking station and can be used as regular pedal bikes if the rider chooses or if the battery dies.

The cost of renting an e-bike will be the same as Ford GoBike pedal bikes. Memberships, which include unlimited 45-minute rides, cost $15 per month or $149 per year. Individual rides are $2 per ride or $10 for 24 hours. Low-income riders can qualify for a discounted membership of $5 for the first year and $5 per month after that.

The Ford GoBike system currently has roughly 300 docking stations and 3,000 bikes spread throughout San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville. According to company data, more than 2 million rides have been taken since the system was launched in June 2017. When it is finally complete, the system should include 7,000 bikes and 546 docking stations across the five cities.

This story was updated after publication to reflect that additional e-bikes are being added in San Francisco and San Jose.

Stuart Luman is a freelance writer based in Berkeley. He has previously been an editor at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a fact checker at Wired Magazine, and a high school English teacher in East...