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Bolt bike-sharing in Richmond

How to get around Richmond on a Bolt electric bike

on July 1, 2021

Whether you need a bike to explore Richmond’s extensive shoreline or simply to run errands, a new rental option is now available to you in the city. 

Richmond’s Transportation Department has partnered with the Florida-based mobility company Bolt to launch the city’s first bike-share program. In mid-June, Bolt installed six stations throughout the city where residents can rent electric bikes that are equipped with pedal assistance and reach top speeds of 15 mph. 

The city plans to launch an additional 19 stations, including one on San Pablo Avenue, before Aug. 1. Until then, 250 bikes are available at stations at the Marina, Point Richmond Community Center, Civic Center, Keller Beach, the Ferry Terminal and at the west end of the BART station. 

Denée Evans, the city’s transportation project manager, says bike-sharing is “one of the solutions to help us expand and enhance our transportation network, connecting gaps for basically the disadvantaged communities of concern.”

Bike- and scooter-sharing programs have been available in the nearby cities of Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco for years and are a part of a larger trend of “micro-transit” in cities. The term refers to on-demand transportation methods such as bicycles, scooters or shuttles that reduce congestion and pollution. Unlike neighboring cities, Richmond is the first to partner with Bolt, citing its local ties as a selling point. 

“[Bolt] hires local residents to provide the operations and support for the bikes that have to be rotated, cleaned and maintained,” Evans said. 

The program was supposed to launch in April 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic. 

“Through this partnership, we can leverage Bolt’s technology to help reduce pollution, improve congestion, provide transportation to the underderserved, and shorten commute times,” Bolt CEO Ignacio Tzoumas said in a news release. 

The program is subsidized by more than $1 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Bike Share Capital Grant program. The MTC manages the Clipper payment system for Bay Area transportation agencies. 

How does it work?

Bolt electric bike
Riders use an app to rent a Bolt bike in Richmond. (Manish Khanal)

To unlock a bike, riders will have to first download the “Gotcha Powered by Bolt” app from the Google Play or Apple App Store, where they will be prompted to create an account. Riders use the app to scan a bike’s QR code, which unlocks a bike for a flat fee of $2. For each minute on the bike, riders are charged an additional 10 cents.

The bikes are unable to lock once they’ve been rented, which some riders see as a drawback. But that may change. “Our [bike-share] is designed as a hub-to-hub transportation system. However, we are currently testing out a pause feature similar to the ones we have on our electric scooters in other markets,” Andreina Ponce, a Bolt spokesperson, said.

Riders also have the option of unlocking a bike with their Clipper card, but they must first link the card via the app. Bolt offers the option of monthly or annual plans that provide 30 minutes of free riding a day. Reduced rates are available for qualified residents on government assistance.

If you have a question about Richmond’s bike rental program, you can contact Denée Evans of the Richmond Transportation Department at 510-621-1718.

This story was updated on July 8.

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