2019 was a banner year for Madison’s bike-share program

BCycle recorded 231,412 trips, up 124%
person riding a bcycle bike
Courtesy of Trek Bicycle

Last year, Madison BCycle recorded 231,412 trips on the bike-sharing company’s bicycle fleet, up 124% from 2018.

The company, owned by Trek Bicycle Corp., released its 2019 Annual Report earlier this year, unveiling its best ridership numbers to date. The miles biked last year — 537,923, or equal to about 21 trips around the globe — saved almost 26,000 gallons of gas and 511,106 pounds of carbon, the equivalent of planting 10,648 new trees. The increase in mileage came the same year BCycle replaced its traditional bicycle fleet with 300 e-bikes. Executive Director Lisa Snyder says the company plans to add another 100 e-bikes in 2020.

“The amount of interest and engagement in Madison BCycle across the community and beyond has been incredible,” Snyder notes in the annual report.

In 2019, Madison became the first city in the country to convert its bike-share system to an all-electric bike fleet, and conclusions based on data from BCycle’s report indicate that these e-bikes are driving ridership. The city of Madison had the highest utilization of any bike-share system in the country last year. The pedal-assisted e-bikes allow users to travel farther and faster, up to 17 miles per hour.

People aren’t just hopping on e-bikes, either. Bicycle usage has increased dramatically over the past 15 years or so, especially in Madison. Seven thousand-plus Madison citizens bike to work and school. In 2019, both the city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin–Madison were awarded platinum-level status as a Bike Friendly Community and a Bike Friendly University, respectively, by the League of American Bicyclists. In 2016, our city topped the list of Midwestern locations with the highest percentage of commuters who biked to work, while ranking seventh in the nation overall. U.S. Census data from the same year indicate that about 3.6% of commuters in the Madison area ride a bicycle to their job, and 5.5% of commuters in the city of Madison do the same.

The city is currently connected by a vast, intersecting bikeway network consisting of off-street, shared-use paths; on-street bike lanes; and local streets. This system is further strengthened by the 2015 Bicycle Transportation Plan, which helps city planners visualize the bikeway infrastructure, address any gaps that may exist and prioritize improvements for bicyclists’ trips. The area also boasts a healthy mix of urban trails and forest routes, like the Monona Loop, the UW Arboretum Trails, the Lakeshore Path, the Badger State Trail and many more.

If you don’t own a bike and are looking to use one of BCycle’s new e-bikes, make sure you know where you can and cannot ride. Up until recently, e-bikes were regulated in the same way as gas-powered motor bikes, which are banned from bike paths and require operators to carry a valid driver’s license. However, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill last November to alter e-bike regulations in light of their growing popularity. This new legislation treats e-bikes as regular bicycles, leaving local governments free to restrict their use on certain bike paths.