Best Buy now sells electric bikes

A few nice where to buy electric bikes images I found:

Best Buy now sells electric bikes
where to buy electric bikes

Image by Steven Vance
It seems that there’s two approaches to designing electric bikes.

One is to electrify a bicycle, and the second is to electrify a motorized pedalcycle.

This bike, which I’ve seen in person, being ridden by a Best Buy employee in the parking lot, seems to follow the latter design method (motorized pedal cycle).

Similarities:
-shocks (this one has both front and rear, probably unnecessary in the rear)
-disc brakes
-design
-small radius wheels

The A2B Metro, in the ad, costs ,699.

Big man, little bike
where to buy electric bikes

Image by Ed Yourdon
For some reason, this photo was published as an illustration in an undated (Feb 2010) Squidoo blog titled "The top 10 reasons to buy an electric bike."
*****************

This is the continuation of a photo-project that I began in the summer of 2008 (which you can see in this Flickr set), and continued throughout 2009 (as shown in this Flickr set): a random collection of "interesting" people in a broad stretch of the Upper West Side of Manhattan — between 72nd Street and 104th Street, especially along Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. These are the people in my neighborhood, aka "peeps in the ‘hood."

As I indicated when I first started this project, I don’t like to intrude on people’s privacy, so I normally use a zoom telephoto lens in order to photograph them while they’re still 50-100 feet away from me; but that means I have to continue focusing my attention on the people and activities half a block away, rather than on what’s right in front of me. Sometimes I find an empty bench on a busy street corner, and just sit quietly for an hour, watching people hustling past on the other side of the street; they’re almost always so busy listening to their iPod, or talking on their cellphone, or daydreaming about something, that they never look up and see me aiming my camera in their direction.

I’ve also learned that, in many cases, the opportunities for an interesting picture are very fleeting — literally a matter of a couple of seconds, before the person(s) in question move on, turn away, or stop doing whatever was interesting. So I’ve learned to keep the camera switched on, and not worry so much about zooming in for a perfectly-framed picture … after all, once the digital image is uploaded to my computer, it’s pretty trivial to crop out the parts unrelated to the main subject. Indeed, some of my most interesting photos have been so-called "hip shots," where I don’t even bother to raise the camera up to my eye; I just keep the zoom lens set to the maximum wide-angle aperture, point in the general direction of the subject, and take several shots. As long as I can keep the shutter speed fairly high (which sometimes requires a fairly high ISO setting), I can usually get some fairly crisp shots — even if the subject is walking in one direction, and I’m walking in the other direction, while I’m snapping the photos.

With only a few exceptions, I’ve generally avoided photographing bums, drunks, crazies, and homeless people. There are a few of them around, and they would certainly create some dramatic pictures; but they generally don’t want to be photographed, and I don’t want to feel like I’m taking advantage of them. There have been a few opportunities to take some "sympathetic" pictures of such people, which might inspire others to reach out and help them. This is one example, and here is another example.

The other thing I’ve noticed, while carrying on this project for the past three years, is that while there are lots of interesting people to photograph, there are far, far, far more people who are not so interesting. They’re probably fine people, and they might even be more interesting than the ones I’ve photographed … but there was just nothing memorable about them. They’re all part of this big, crowded city; but for better or worse, there are an awful lot that you won’t see in these Flickr sets of mine…

Velib station
where to buy electric bikes

Image by austinevan
Paris Vélib Service (Vélib is short for “Velo Liberte” or “Bike Freedom”) is a city-wide bike rental service. With plans for 20,600 bicycles available on 1,451 stations, it is the largest bicycle rental project in the world.

See more info at www.en.velib.paris.fr/

I place my notes, tips, tricks on Velib on my Veliblog: velibobsession.blogspot.com

Renting a Velib bike

These bikes are fun to rent and ride but, depending on how long you are in Paris, you may just want to buy a bike and lock it up outside where you are staying. I love the Velib system but it is more appropriate for short-term point-to-point transportation. If you’re in Paris for more than a few weeks it may be more useful to buy a 100 euro bike at Decathalon (along with a good lock). Buying a bike is also better if you plan to ride more than just 30 minutes each time. Having said that I still like this system and use it often to get from place to place more quickly.

UPDATE (25 October 2007): The system now accepts American Express and JCB cards that do not have the EU smart chips! Good news for visitors that do not have an EU bank card.

UPDATE (28 October 2007): Be VERY careful out there… I’m sad to write that the the first fatility involving a Velib bicycle occurred on 18 October in the 13th arrondissement. This is first fatility since the service started July 15 2007. Marthe Coppel-Batsch, 59, a prominent Psychologist and Psychoanalyst, was struck by a truck near the corner of Boulevard de la Bastille and quai de la Rapée. The accident was caused when the driver of the truck could not see the bicyclist due to the "blind spot".

While the majority of Paris bike lanes are dedicated to bikes, there remains many that are shared between bikes, taxis, and buses. Riding in these shared lanes is tricky and I’ve found myself having to compete for space with very large vehicles that do not always see the bike riders well if at all. Bike helmets are not required nor used in Paris and perhaps they may catch on as there have 4 fatalities now involving bicyclists each year. www.liberation.fr/actualite/societe/285982.FR.php

UPDATE: With the transit strike over, bikes are now being repaired more quickly…

The French transit strike increased ridership but conversely resulted in many bikes not getting repaired. Twice while going to rent a Velib I found many bikes in the stands that were broken. The strike made transporting the bikes to the repair depots difficult resulting in many broken bikes being left in the stands.

So, WATCH OUT for flat tires, broken chains, bent wheels, etc.

The interface is a bit confusing… but it works (eventually) and you can rent a nice bike very cheaply.

Paris Vélib Service (Vélib is short for “Velo Liberte” or “Bike Freedom”) is a city-wide bike rental service. With plans for 20,600 bicycles available on 1,451 stations, it is the largest bicycle rental project in the world.

THE BIKES

The sturdy grey bikes come with a metal basket on the handlebars and are heavier than standard bicycles, built to withstand heavy use. In line with the program’s green image, Vélib‘ maintenance staff get around town on 130 electrically assisted bicycles. A barge with 12 stops along the Seine will pick up bikes in need of major repairs. Cleaning staff drive electric vehicles and use rain collected on the roofs of JCDecaux offices

Shimano (brake systems)
Prowheel (core hardware)
Nexus (gear shifts, cables, etc)

The bikes are 3 speed “roadster”-type bikes.

I had some luck as when I arrived at the Jaures station as there was a ratp truck unloading new bikes. I spoke to the RATP employees and found out there are currently about 13,000 bikes in place right now with plans to have 20,600 by the end of the summer in 1,451 stations. The bikes just arrived a few days ago (on the 15th of July – right after bastille).

I walked down to the Jaures Vélib station and rented one! It’s a pretty cool bike; a bit particular looking but no one seems to mind riding them. I road it about 30 minutes and it did well. It’s not meant for comfort so watch out for bumps in the road and cobblestones. It has 3 speeds so is fairly flexible. It also has lots of illumination so seems fairly safe at night (I’ll try it tonight and see how it goes).

You have to buy a Vélib pass first:

Daily card is 1 euro
Weekly card is 7 euros
1 YEAR is 29 euros

To get the 1 year card you have to go online and sign up and get an “abonnement”. Most people visiting Paris will probably want to just get a bike for 7 days then check it in/out as needed over the 7 days.

UPDATE: I’ve found that I can get the Velib yearlong form online and link it to my metro pass by mailing in the form (along with a check for 29 euros and an authorization for 150 euros) to the Velib HQ outside Paris. Once this is done I can much more easily get a bike by just passing my navigo card over the sensor! The process to get the Navigo metro card linked to the Velib system is lengthy and requires several forms to be filled out (very very French).

The three choices do involve a 150 Euro “deposit”. That is, if you don’t return the bike within a certain amount of time you will be charged 150 euros.

There is a 13 point legal summary that you must accept to obtain a Vélib pass (one of the annoying features is having to read through the entire legal acceptance form on a small screen) NOTE: I have since found that you can "skip" the entire text. Another issue is that when you pay with a bank card you have to switch to a different interface screen. The Main interface (a color plasma screen) for the details of the bike pass then the smaller LCD screen for the details of your bank card. But, it’s very similar to the RATP and SNCF machines used to get metro and train tickets (at least in the complexity of the user interface).

To get the 1 year card you have to go online and sign up and get an “abonnement”. Most people visiting Paris will probably want to just get a bike for 7 days then check it in/out as needed over the 7 days.

Either of the three choices do involve a 150 Euro “deposit”. That is, if you don’t return the bike within a certain amount of time you will be charged 150 euros.

The first two options can be done right at the Vélib station. There’s not a person there so you have to use the interface.

Payment:

You can use French bank card and it looks like most ATM cards will work as well. I tried using my navigo and it worked great! I also used my Bank Card and it worked also. You can also use your navigo card (your metro pass which you can obtain free from www.navigo.fr/ – you’ll need to upload a photo and provide a French address – use the address you will be staying at even if it’s a hotel; the navigo card will arrive in a few days so do this before you leave)

UPDATE: The Velib system now accepts American Express and JCB cards that do not have smart chips! Good news for foreign visitors who don’t have an EU smart card…

Language:

The interface says it’s in French, German, English but these languages don’t work yet (I guess they have not translated the interface so these buttons don’t do anything). So, you’ll need to read French but it’s not that hard and there are always people around willing to help. The RATP employees say there are plans to include other languages (up to 8) but right now there are only 3 (and only French is actually working right now!).

UPDATE: During the 2nd week the interface was updated and is now working in English, Spanish, and French.

Once you receive an abonnement card you will have to select a PIN (code secret) that will allow you to use your card in other stations.

Once you process a payment, you select the stall number, then go push the button on the stall corresponding to the bike you selected. Then you just go ride off into the sunset! Then return the bike at any other station.

Once you have the pass and bike you are charged based on how long you ride it – simple. If you check out a bike and ride it for less than an hour and a half it’s free! But if you ride it longer you have to pay – A supplement of 1 euro will be charged for an additional half-hour, 2 euros for another 30-minutes and 4 euros for every addition half-hour after that.

Don’t forget to push the button on the stall to get your bike! I don’t know how many people I’ve seen try to “swipe” the paper bike ticket on the navigo interface!

SECURITY

The bikes come with a cable lock. This is passed around a pole or other object then connects into the frame of the bike. There is a small key that will release once the cable lock is snapped into place. I’ve had a little bit of trouble at first then realized that after clicking one end of the cable in place, to unlock it, you must also push the cable connector in a bit further to get the key to release. It’s not the thickest cable and so I prefer to keep the bike in sight when locked (if possible). Theft is not yet a serious problem for the program but it does happen. If you happen to lose the key, call the emergency number listed on the bike (01 30 79 79 30) and someone will come unlock the bike for you.

RETURN

To return the bike just put it into one of the stalls. Make sure the slot is engaged. It will "click" into the slot, the light will go "yellow" then to "green" about 5 seconds later when the RFID system recognizes your bike as being returned.

If there are problems you can call Vélib’s emergency number: 01 30 79 79 30. This number is also printed on the bike’s handle-bar.

JCDecaux

JCDecaux sponsors the project in exchange for advertising rights in Paris. JCDecaux is Europe’s largest outdoor advertising company. Like a similar scheme in Lyon, where 10 percent of the city’s population has a subscription to the local sharing scheme, Vélib is operated by outdoor advertising giant JCDecaux, which is footing the bill in exchange for exclusive rights to 1,628 Paris billboards.

UPDATE: I’ve been renting one 2 or 3 times a week and it seems to work well so far. Theft has not been a huge problem so far but it does happen. The bikes come with a lock but it is not a substantial one and is easily cut. When I stop to eat somewhere I lock it up but keep it in sight. Right now they program is regarded with some pride by parisians so it seems including the appropriate marketing and presentation has some benefits. For example, the program was marketed outside of normal medial channels (outside of France). The support infrastructure is also highly visible with specialized electric vehicles, boats, and even uniforms for the maintenance personnel. This makes sense though given that the company financing it is JCDecaux (Europe’s largest outdoor advertising firm).

The UI terminals: These are two-sided. One side is the main UI for renting a bike, the other is a map and a smaller interface for obtaining the balance on your bike by entering the ticket number.

There have been glitches:

1. Terminal’s are sometimes offline so no way to get a bike
2. There are bikes available but the terminal doesn’t know this (RFID system goes down sometimes) so it sends you to an interface to find another Velib station.
3. Sometimes the terminals will be rebooted remotely and will be unavailable for about 5 minutes while it reboots.

The UI is based on windows VB script and runs on the Windows XP embedded OS. The BIOS is Phoenix 1.14. The hardware is a 1.3Ghz Pentium III with 500MB memory.

14 thoughts on “Best Buy now sells electric bikes

  1. Steven Vance

    Here’s a photo of the former electric bike design method (electrify a bicycle):
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/bike/4110577450/]

    Reply
  2. Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

    I was wondering why I’ve started seeing these A2B eBikes all of a sudden! Good job of marketing on the part of UltraMotor.

    The A2B rides like a motor scooter — no pedaling necessary, plenty of zip. Here’s my son (illegally — minimum age to ride eBike in California is 16) riding a police model A2B:

    A2B eBike Police Model

    Reply
  3. Steven Vance

    The advertisement says for sale at select stores. I’m not sure the laws are very clear in Illinois and Chicago about e-bikes. I think EVERYTHING with a motor in Chicago is disallowed from bike lanes. Not true with the State of Illinois.

    Reply
  4. Steven Vance

    I saw someone who rides it (in Chicago). They do exist!
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/4917296441/]

    Reply
  5. Steven Vance

    Apparently illegal in New York City but Best Buy sales literature tries to help you ignore that.
    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/4914327002/]

    Reply
  6. ramivic

    Best Buy South Loop looks like they got rid of all their electric bikes… too bad the Currie Technologies stuff was on sale a few weeks ago too.

    Reply
  7. austinevan

    You’re welcome. I’ve been renting one 2 or 3 times a week and it seems to work well so far. Theft has not been a huge problem so far but it does happen. The bikes come with a lock but it is not a substantial one and is easily cut. When I stop to eat somewhere I lock it up but keep it in sight. Right now they program is regarded with some pride by parisians so it seems including the appropriate marketing and presentation has some benefits. For example, the program was marketed outside of normal medial channels (outside of France). The support infrastructure is also highly visible with specialized electric vehicles, boats, and even uniforms for the maintenance personnel. This makes sense though given that the company financing it is JCDecaux (Europe’s largest outdoor advertising firm).

    Reply
  8. cudmore

    Thanks for the detailed description, very thorough. I am laughing to myself every day in Marseille as I walk past the half constructed Velib stations. Marseille is a mess in general (no rules when you are driving) and I am waiting to see how it goes down here in the Mediterranean

    I can’t imagine where people will actually be able to ride these bikes except on the already crowded sidewalks (crowded with people walking, parked cars and people riding scooters). My guess is that they will be stolen or vandalized.

    Reply
  9. ViPier

    Oh my god, this was so so helpful, ive been trying to get a bike in paris for a week now, since it also says it has the option to get one even without any sort of card, but ive found that this is just impossible!

    and trying to read the information on the navigo page its just as bad, my poor french and lack of knowledgement of the transport system just dont help!

    hum, i didnt really get in what webpage do i ask for the form, or in my case, where the heck can i find the 1 day or weekly pass??

    thanks so much for the info!!

    Reply
  10. fernweh_still

    Thanks! I’m living in Paris for the semester and I was wondering whether you knew more details about renting. None of my cards have memory chips in them, so I can’t get them to work at the terminals. Can I send Velib a 150 euro deposit with an American check for the year subscription, or can I use my Navigo to buy either long-term or short-term passes?

    Reply
  11. austinevan

    If you’re going to be in Paris for a while, I’d suggest opening a bank account. An easy place to get an account is LaPoste (the post office is also a bank and they are known for being more lenient as far as who can get an account). I talked to Velib on the phone and found that: if no smart-card, you’ll have to go to one of the Mairie’s, get the form for the yearly enrollment and pay the deposit plus the 29 euros. I live next to the Mairie in the 19th and will see if this is really the case…

    More later!

    Reply

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