E-bike racks installed by the company Bcycle.

BCycle rental e-bike racks are installed Wednesday on East Cliff Drive at 32nd Avenue in Pleasure Point. (Tyler Maldonado — Santa Cruz Local)

LIVE OAK >> Thirteen new racks for BCycle electric bikes are expected to be installed in Live Oak and Pleasure Point, and 19 more racks are anticipated in Capitola by the end of March. Nineteen or more racks in Watsonville also could be set up in August, Watsonville city staff said.

“This is probably going to end up being one of the geographically largest bike share systems in the country under one bike share provider,” said Santa Cruz BCycle General Manager Kyle Klein. “There are some cities that have multiple providers, but as a sole provider this is a very large size program,” said Klein.

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Rack locations are approximate for Live Oak, Pleasure Point and Capitola and preliminary for Watsonville as of March 1. Sources: BCycle, County of Santa Cruz, City of Capitola, City of Watsonville. (Map by Nik Altenberg — Santa Cruz Local)

The system of white rental bikes came to the City of Santa Cruz in early 2023 from a subsidiary of Trek Bicycle Corp. With a top speed of 17 mph and a rough range of 25 miles with a full charge, the bikes offer an alternative to driving for locals and tourists.

Given the size of the bike-share program relative to the population size it serves, Klein said Santa Cruz County provides an opportunity to prove that bike share systems can work outside of large city centers.

“Most tend to focus on city centers and large, very tight urban locations. And not that our county isn’t [urban], but really what we’re opening is a large bike-share infrastructure for everyday people, everyone. You don’t have to work in the city center to use it. You can live out in Soquel and take a bike to Downtown Santa Cruz or to West Cliff or Pleasure Point,” he said. 

The BCycle bikes can be rented at any station through a mobile app. Bikes must be returned to a station or face a potential $2,750 fine.

Klein also managed the JUMP bike service in Santa Cruz before it closed in 2020. He said one of the most common complaints of the JUMP bikes was the lack of a docking system.

“It was horrible,” Klein said. He said he couldn’t count the number of times he had to recover bikes from inappropriate locations. “We would get one in the ocean a day, it felt like,” he said. “That was the worst part, people would chuck them off of West Cliff. That was just sad for the bike and the environment.”

“We hope that by having access to bike share we can help shift attitudes around transportation and transportation infrastructure,” Klein said. “Our hope is that if you are driving a car but you also have experience riding an e-bike on our roads, you will be more likely to respect and accept the presence of people riding,” Klein wrote in an email. “You will be more likely to drive at an appropriate speed, and more likely to drive safely.”

About 75 e-bikes across 13 BCycle racks are expected in March at the following locations:

Live Oak and Pleasure Point

  • Paul Sweet Road near Salisbury Drive.
  • Rodriguez Street and Jose Avenue.
  • Capitola Road and Foster Court.
  • Seventh Avenue and Brommer Street.
  • Fifth Avenue and East Cliff Drive. 
  • Sunny Cove Drive and East Cliff Drive.
  • Live Oak Branch Library, 2380 Portola Drive.
  • Moran Lake County Park, 22775 East Cliff Drive.
  • East Cliff Drive and 32nd Avenue. 
  • 40th Avenue and Portola Drive.
  • Brommer Street County Park, 1451 30th Ave. 
  • 17th Avenue and Brommer Street.
  • Chanticleer Avenue County Park, 1975 Chanticleer Ave.
A map showing potential Bcycle e-bike rental locations in Live Oak and Pleasure Point.

BCycle racks are expected to be installed at these approximate locations in March. (County of Santa Cruz)

BCycle Dock Technician Edgar Espino and General Manager Kyle Klein install racks for BCycle electric rental bikes on East Cliff Drive at 32nd Avenue on Wednesday. (Tyler Maldonado — Santa Cruz Local)

BCycle Dock Technician Edgar Espino and General Manager Kyle Klein install racks for BCycle electric rental bikes on East Cliff Drive at 32nd Avenue on Wednesday. (Tyler Maldonado — Santa Cruz Local)

County staff said the rental e-bike service aims to reduce carbon emissions and increase transportation accessibility. 

“We want to make sure that we give people a green transportation alternative to visit different places throughout the county,” said Tiffany Martinez, a Santa Cruz County spokeswoman. 

Capitola e-bike racks

BCycle stations are expected to be installed in March within a block of the following locations, said Capitola Community Development Director Katie Herlihy.

  • Clares Street west of 40th Avenue.
  • Capitola Mall Transit Center, 1855 41st Ave.
  • Clares Street and Seven Gables Way.
  • Clares Street and Wharf Road.
  • 45th Avenue near Capitola Road.
  • Capitola and Wharf roads.
  • 41st Avenue and Melton Street.
  • Jade Street west of 45th Avenue.
  • Prospect and 49th avenues.
  • Cliff Drive east of Capitola Wharf.
  • Capitola City Hall, 420 Capitola Ave.
  • Capitola Beach near the Esplanade. 
  • Monterey and Bay avenues.
  • Capitola and Bay avenues.
  • Bay Avenue and Hill Street.
  • Monterey Avenue and Junipero Court.
  • Monterey Avenue and Kennedy Drive.
  • Kennedy Drive and Sir Francis Avenue.
  • Park Avenue and Coronado Street.
S map showing potential Bcycle e-bike rental locations in Capitola.

BCycle racks are expected to be installed in March in these approximate locations. (BCycle)

BCycle bike rentals are expected to be $7 per 30-minute trip across Santa Cruz County. (BCycle)

Watsonville e-bike racks

Ten BCycle rack locations initially were expected to be installed in Watsonville in March, but city staff want to install racks at 25 locations in August if they receive a grant. A grant application was made in November, said Watsonville Environmental Projects Manager Alex Yasbek. 

With more stations, riders could save riding time by having stations closer to their destination and not having to ride further to return a bike, Yasbek said. Having more stations also makes the program more likely to be a success and more cost effective, he said.

“You’re not spending a lot of money going around collecting bikes from random places,” Yasbek said. 

Yasbek, who worked on the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, said he hoped the BCycle program would help popularize bike travel in the city and support the city’s mission to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. 

Watsonville preliminary locations are expected to be finalized by August. Some locations require permission from Caltrans or other property owners, Yasbek said. 

“Stations can be relocated easily and the system refined,” Yasbek wrote in an email. “We expect the system to evolve over time.” 

Preliminary Watsonville BCycle rack locations include: 

  • Airport Boulevard and Nielson Street.
  • Watsonville Municipal Airport, 100 Aviation Way.
  • Airport and Freedom boulevards.
  • Green Valley Road and Freedom Boulevard.
  • Harkins Slough Road and Silver Leaf Drive.
  • Westridge Drive near the FedEx dropbox.
  • Main Street and Crossroads Square.
  • Hope Drive Park, 76 Hope Drive.
  • Freedom Boulevard and Alta Vista Avenue.
  • Ohlone Parkway and Lighthouse Drive.
  • Main Street and Pennsylvania Drive.
  • Pennsylvania and Hammer drives.
  • Callaghan Park Cultural Center, 225 Sudden St.
  • Main and East Fifth streets.
  • Main and Second streets.
  • West Lake Avenue and Rodriguez Street.
  • East Beach and Marchant streets.
  • East Lake Avenue near Martinelli Street.
  • Franich Park on Vista Montana Drive.

Watsonville city staff said these preliminary locations for BCycle racks are expected to be installed in August. (City of Watsonville)

Yasbek said e-bikes are cheaper to produce and less environmentally costly than electric cars. 

“There’s a lot of reasons why people don’t ride conventional bikes, and I feel like e-bikes really change that,” Yasbek said. “You can get where you need to go because you don’t have to work out as much. It’s a transportation experience that really works,” he said.

E-bike costs

Riders can access rental bikes with the BCycle app. The app displays a map with available bikes and allows users to undock the bike. BCycle rental costs are based on 30-minute rides with prices per ride, or monthly or annual fees, according to its website. There are discounts for UC Santa Cruz students and faculty. 

  • Walk-up pass: $7 per 30 minutes.
  • Monthly membership: $30 for unlimited 30-minute trips, add $3 for each extra 30 minutes.
  • Annual membership: $150 for unlimited 60-minute trips, add $3 for each extra 30 minutes.

BCycle is expected to pay construction and maintenance costs with no money contribution from the cities or the County of Santa Cruz, city and county staff said. 

BCycle signed a five-year contract in which it agreed in years 3-5 to pay each agency $25 per dock within the respective jurisdiction if the company achieves a net profit margin of 10% or more the previous year, said Herlihy, of Capitola. 

Yasbek said he doubted that the service would generate money for Watsonville because “bike share historically has very low margins.”

He said e-bikes have big upsides for cities and people. 

“The difference between e-bikes and regular bikes is that people actually want to use an e-bike all the time,” Yasbek wrote in an email. “It is fun, you are outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, you are part of the community — waving at other riders, saying ‘Hi’ to pedestrians. It is a beautiful way to get around.”

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Tyler Maldonado holds a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. He writes about housing, homelessness and the environment. He lives in Santa Cruz County.