In London, electric bicycles vie for drivers' attention

Car rental company Hertz is rolling out electric bicycles for hire in London. Will e-bikes undercut the human-powered Barclay bikes?

London's popular Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, along with the Paris Velib system, is well-known around the world as a triumphant moment for urban planning around multi-modal transportation -- that is, encouraging a city's streets to place equal preference on cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

But if you've ever ridden a bicycle more than a short distance to work -- over unfixed potholes, around blind turns, up every bloody hill in the city -- you'll know that breaking a sweat before your morning coffee is not for everyone.

Spotting a business opportunity, car rental company Hertz thinks it can bridge the gap. To encourage the non-athletes among us to bike --not drive -- to work, the company has reportedly rolled out electric bicycles in London.

The bikes -- the pedal-assisted A2B Hybrid 24 and the scooter-like Fast4ward Edge, in case you're wondering -- first appeared on June 6.

The hope is that tourists and other residents will gravitate toward the bikes, with the promise of not having to grunt and push their way to where they want to go. (Aside from the challenge of ever-present London precipitation, of course.)

The bikes rent for £19 (about $30) for the day, which they'll have you know is is cheaper than the city program at £51, or about $82. (What they won't tell you: the Barclay "Boris bikes" are intended for short trips, such as 30 minutes, which only costs £1.)

On the other hand, you likely can't take your groceries home on one of these bikes, so the use case is a bit cloudier. Makes sense for a tourist going about the city all day; makes less sense for a single-direction trip during rush hour.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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