San Francisco Will Pioneer Electric Bike Sharing

With federal backing, the city is partnering with a local car share service to offer members access to electric bikes.

San Francisco is putting a new spin on car- and bike-sharing services. With federal backing, the city is partnering with a local car share service to offer members access to electric bikes, too. The program will launch this year with 45 bikes being integrated into the system, and an additional 45 will come into circulation in 2013, The New York Times reports.

Electric bikes are sneaking into the mainstream. Some replace pedal power with an electric motor; others still require pedaling but amplify a cyclist’s efforts. In New York City, restaurant employees use them to stretch delivery service into wider areas, even though they’re technically illegal in the state. Last year, a bike with an electric assist won the Oregon Manifest challenge, which asked bike designers to create a “utility bike” that could attract civilians to cycling.

That bike’s designer, Tony Pereira, told judges that his bike could replace a car. The San Francisco pilot program is asking more directly whether that’s true. Researchers at University of California-Berkeley will be studying the extent to which car share customers choose an electric bike over a car.

In theory, there should be a threshold at which a bike makes more sense than a car. The rider might rule out a regular bike because she needs to reach a destination quickly, or doesn’t want to arrive sweaty, or doesn’t want to face a particular hill. But she might not need the full power of a car to solve those problems. Since the pilot program will price the electric bike at half the rate of cars or even lower, car share members will have an added incentive to choose the e-bike — a vehicle that will have a smaller environmental impact.

An electric bike sharing program like this one taps into two transportation trends that have the potential to use less energy and decrease emissions. The first is a trend away from ownership: Millennials say they’re more interested in having access to a car than owning one. This makes particular sense for those living in cities: why take on the burdens of a car’s maintenance, safety, and storage when it sits idle most days? For those living in the densest cities, like New York, that logic starts applying to smaller vehicles, like bikes, as well.

The second trend involves tinkering with pricing to help people make rational transportation choices. Offering people the choice between a more expensive car and a cheaper e-bike rental falls into this category; so do other San Francisco initiatives like demand-based parking pricing. The Value Pricing Pilot Program, the federal transportation initiative that’s chipping in for the e-bike share, also supported the parking program, which raises the cost of parking where demand is high and lowers it where demand shrinks.

In both programs, pricing helps nudge consumers towards more efficient decisions. Perhaps drivers don’t need to park on the street they’ve always favored when another one is cheaper. Perhaps that trip to the grocery store doesn’t require a car. These are small decisions, but the more often consumers make smarter ones, the more emissions from transportation—one of the biggest contributors to climate change—will decrease.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Tyler Howarth

via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading