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We took Boise’s new ebikes for a spin. How Vall-ebike works

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A trial of a new electric bike share program is underway in Boise. Vall-ebike, the brand name for the project from Valley Regional Transit, launched earlier this summer.

The project is subsidized by funds from the Capital City Development Corp. The fleet is similar to the scooters found on local streets – with a couple of key differences. First, of course, they’re bikes, not scooters. Second, instead of a private business, the bikes are partially operated and funded by government entities. Beyond that, the experience for users is similar.

I gave a Vall-ebike a (literal) spin – here’s how it worked.

Mostly smooth process

The Valle-bike system uses the old Boise Green Bike hubs. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

As I walked the block or so from our Downtown Boise office to the nearest bike hub in front of Boise City Hall, we downloaded the Vall-ebike app from the app store. Once installed, I was asked permission to connect to Bluetooth, agreed to a lengthy terms of service, entered my phone number, and popped in a confirmation code.

Then, a map of bikes popped up. I noticed a coupon code for a free 30-minute ride and found the spot to enter that in.

Next, I approached a bike and hit “scan” on the app. Similar to the scooters, the code let us tell the app I wanted to take the bike. It accepted the voucher, then asked for credit card info.

  • A monthly pass for $39 allows up to 60 minutes of “free ride time per day” (you pay $39, so it’s not free). After that, riders on the monthly pass pay $0.15 a minute.
  • A day pass runs $8, with unlimited trips with a cap at four hours. Then it’s $0.15 a minute.
  • Lastly, you can pay as you go, with a $1 unlock fee and $0.15 per minute.

Once the credit card digits were dialed in, a lock on the back of the bike snapped open. I uncoiled the lock cable from the former Boise Green Bike hub, curled it under the bike, and hopped on.

Smooth e-biking, rough e-locking

It’s a bike. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Unlike scooters, there’s no digital display. The controls on the bike are simple: two pedals, two brakes, and a bell.

This was my first time on an e-bike of any kind, and I expected a throttle of some sort like scooters, but there isn’t one. Instead, the bike’s motor starts motoring when you pedal. If you coast, the motor tapers off. If you pedal more quickly, it cranks up. This took a bit of adjusting, but the ride was pretty easy and smooth.

I tooled around downtown for a bit, working on a construction tour video project. As I approached City Hall, I checked my app (at a stop) and noticed I had two minutes left on the free ride.

I hustled back to the hub and got back with about a minute to spare. Hoping to save on any overages, I worked to hop off, loop the lock back on, and hit ‘end ride’ on the app.

Mission not accomplished. Because the bike lock had snapped open so satisfyingly 29 minutes and 30 seconds ago, I thought the same would happen here. No. The app told me the bike wasn’t locked, and I struggled to figure it out. There’s no real instruction or diagram. I hit the recalibrate button in the app, and still no luck. Now, past that 30 minutes, I figured out that if I looked at how another bike was locked, I might figure it out. It turns out you have to slide the lock shut on your own and then tell the app you’ve done it.

Success! And a hefty bill… for $0.30.

All in all a pretty easy option for getting around – especially for trips where a scooter doesn’t make sense (or you don’t feel safe), or you don’t want to walk or hop in the car.

Also – you don’t have to lock the bike to hubs, unlike Boise Green Bike. But if you choose to leave them elsewhere, you’ll pay a $2 fee. If you lock them outside a designated area of downtown and the North End, you’ll pay $25.

The trial runs through fall.

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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