We tried Boise’s new e-bikes. How Vall-ebike works
The project is supported by funds from the Capital City Development Corp. The Fleet is similar to scooters found on local streets – with a few key differences. First, of course, these are bicycles, not scooters. Second, instead of being a private company, the bikes are partially operated and funded by government entities. Beyond that, the experience for users is similar.
I gave a (literal) Vall-ebike a spin – here’s how it worked.
Generally smooth process
As I cycled the block or so from our office in downtown Boise to the nearest bike center in front of Boise City Hall, we downloaded the Vall-ebike app from the App Store. Once installed, I was asked for permission to connect to Bluetooth, accepted lengthy terms of service, entered our phone number, and inserted a confirmation code.
Then a bike map appeared. I noticed a coupon code for a free 30 minute ride and found the place to enter it.
Then I approached a bike and pressed “scan” on the app. Similar to scooters, the code allowed us to tell the app that I wanted to ride the bike. He accepted the voucher and then asked for credit card information.
- 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, monthly pass passengers pay $0.15 per minute.
- A day pass costs $8, with unlimited rides with a four-hour cap. Then it’s $0.15 per minute.
- Finally, you can pay as you go, with unlocking fees of $1 and $0.15 per minute.
Once the credit card digits were dialed, a lock on the back of the bike opened. I unwound the locking cable from the old Boise Green Bike hub, wrapped it under the bike and jumped on it.
Smooth e-bike, rough e-lock
Unlike scooters, there is no digital display. The controls of the bike are simple: two pedals, two brakes and a bell.
This was my first time riding an e-bike of any kind, and I was expecting a throttle like scooters do, but there isn’t. Instead, the bike’s motor starts when you pedal. If you coast, the motor slows down. If you pedal faster, it goes up. It took a bit of adjusting, but the ride was pretty easy and smooth.
I worked downtown for a bit, working on a construction tour video project. Approaching City Hall, I checked my app (at a stop) and noticed that I had two minutes of free ride left.
I rushed to the hub and returned with about a minute to spare. Hoping to save on overage, I worked to get off, buckle the lock, and hit “End Ride” on the app.
Mission not accomplished. Because the bike lock opened so satisfactorily 29 minutes and 30 seconds ago, I figured the same thing would happen here. No. The app told me the bike was unlocked and I had a hard time understanding it. There is no real instruction or diagram. I pressed the recalibrate button in the app, and still no luck. Now, after those 30 minutes, I realized that if I looked at how another bike was locked, I could figure it out. Turns out you have to close the lock on your own, then tell the app you did.
Hit! And a hefty bill…for $0.30.
All in all, a fairly 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 jump in the car.
Also, you don’t have to lock the bike to the hubs, unlike Boise Green Bike. But if you choose to leave them somewhere else, you will pay a $2 fee. If you lock them up outside a designated area of Downtown and the North End, you’ll pay $25.
The trial lasts until the fall.