You don’t need 4 wheels to go electric

On Wednesday and Friday evenings, members of the Hawaii Float Sessions gather in front of BikeFactory Hawaii to Kaka’ako for a scenic ride to Waikīkī on their Onewheels: self-balancing one-wheel electric skateboards.

“Onewheels has changed my life,” says Jay Gatchalian, the group’s co-founder. “It saved me so much money on gas and I met some of the most amazing people in the Onewheel community.”

A Onewheel moves when the rider places both feet on the board, and because it self-balances, you don’t have to be a gymnast to use it. It is one of many personal electric vehicles that are suitable for short trips and reduce the carbon footprint of their owners. And PEVs can be just plain fun to drive.

Ephraim Botulan, another co-founder of Floating sessions in Hawaii, says people with other electric vehicles such as e-bikes, skateboards and scooters are also welcome on the group’s community rides and other experiences. His Facebook group has more than 400 members.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Ground transportation accounts for 47% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a Hawaii State Energy Office in 2021 report. The bureau also estimates that 60% of trips in Hawai’i are less than 3 miles, which is ideal for PEVs, which are much more energy efficient than cars.

Honolulu has the greatest potential for micromobility success, according to a 2019 ranking of 10 US cities by mobility analytics firm Inrix. Micromobility is defined as transport over short distances with light vehicles. The study cited Honolulu’s warm climate and frequent short trips.

Iniki Gallway from E Bikes Hawaii | Photo by: Aaron Yoshino

Demographic change

Iniki Galway commutes to work on her e-bike from Kalihi to Kapahulu – around 3.5 miles – and says she “feels generally safe” along the way.

Galway is Marketing Director of Hawaii Electric Bikes, an e-bike shop with locations in Honolulu and Kapolei. She says when the store first opened in Honolulu in 2013, “the demographics were very different.”

Many of the customers were in their 60s, some with “mobility issues,” she said. But over the past three to five years, e-bikes have become “incredibly popular among younger generations”.

One of the cheapest models from Ebikes Hawaii costs around $1,199; the most expensive can cost up to $8,000.

Users of all ages

On its social media platforms, Hawaii Business Magazine asked people which micromobility vehicles they use and why. Sixteen people of varying ages responded: three were in their twenties, five in their thirties, four in their forties and four over 50 years old. One person reported using an electric scooter, three an electric bicycle, six a Onewheel and three an electric unicycle. One person reported using an e-bike and an e-scooter, another uses a Onewheel and an e-scooter, and another uses a Onewheel and an e-unicycle.

Ryan Nakazaki, who was a political officer at Blue Planet Foundation when we spoke to him, worked closely with government officials and partners to create programs and projects that reduce carbon emissions from buildings and vehicles. He would go to work by TheBus or by bicycle and does not own a car.

He says micromobility vehicles support “mode switching”, meaning they allow people to get out of their cars and use cleaner modes of transport. Achieving a mode shift is a challenge, Nakazaki admits, because “people are hesitant to give up cars because of the flexibility” they offer.

But micromobility vehicles have many uses. For example, on long trips, they often solve the “first mile, last mile problem” – the distance commuters have to travel from their homes to their transit stops, or from their transit stops to their destination, explains Nakazaki.

Changing the future of transport

Kaimukī resident Mackenzie Walsh and her husband moved to O’ahu in 2019, already planning to be bicycle commuters. She says e-bikes are convenient because finding and paying for parking is a hassle.

“The bike itself is extremely affordable compared to a car and the maintenance required,” says Walsh.

She says that in addition to commuting to work, she and her husband use e-bikes when they go surfing or running errands within 2 miles.

The 34-year-old admits riding a bike is “a bit dangerous” and doesn’t think “the majority of Hawaiians care about bikers”.

She describes driving along the Ala Wai Canal, with walkers and joggers crowding the cycle path. Once, she says, she tried to get the attention of a woman who was blocking the way, but the jogger didn’t notice because she was wearing headphones.

Beware of road rage drivers

Āina Haina resident and e-bike rider Michael Keany echoes these concerns and mentions another. He says he was run over by cars and that “raving madmen” jumped out of their vehicles in an attempt to fight him.

“Some motorists really have an adversarial relationship with bikes,” says Keany, a cyclist for decades.

He says Honolulu’s “bike-ability” has improved over the years. When he started riding, he says, there were no bike lanes and the competition for space with cars was scary.

More cycle paths

This is something the city is working on: creating more designated bike lanes and increasing its network of bike paths.

According to the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services, O’ahu has 220 miles of on-road and off-road bike trails, including shared-use trails, conventional bike trails, and shared roads. A 2019 O’ahu Bike Map Update calls for an additional 575 miles of bike lanes, including 325 miles to be created by the city. The remaining 250 miles offered are under state or private jurisdiction. The Department of Transportation Services says there is no set timeline for creating the additional miles, but the city aims to complete Phase I within five years.

Providing the right infrastructure for micromobility vehicles, Nakazaki says, encourages more people to use them, and the South King Street Protected Cycle Path, which was completed in 2014, is one example.

The number of cyclists along the South King Road before the installation of the protected cycle path was 55 per day, according to DTS. After the installation of the cycle path, the number increased to 331 per day.


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Growing acceptance of rentals

From August 2020there were more than 260 shared micromobility systems in the United States, including those for bike share and electric scooters with or without a dock, according to the US Department of Transportation.

The national survey found that half of these systems closed at the start of the pandemic, either temporarily or permanently.

But a scooter rental company Go X launched during the pandemic, and co-founder Khodor Salam says ridership is growing on O’ahu. After about a year of operations, Salam says, Go X has completed enough trips to circumnavigate O’ahu 1,400 times.

Problems of the past

Honolulu has had issues with electric scooters in the past: Lime, a global electric scooter company, got into trouble with the city government in 2018 because the company and its customers left their scooters on the sidewalks of the city. town. There was also confusion at the time as to where people could ride the electric scooters; they were classified as mopeds, which are not meant to be driven on sidewalks.

City and state laws prohibit PEVs from sidewalks. And a law that took effect in 2021 classifies electric scooters separately from mopeds, although the curb ban remains.

Go X electric scooters can be picked up and dropped off at over 50 locations in Waikīkī, such as hotels and shops. Customers find electric scooters and pay for them using a phone app.

Salam says the company and its app reinforce safety messages for cyclists. He explains that when a customer picks up an e-scooter, the app outlines the scooter laws in the city, and while customers are riding, they receive another notification reminding them to follow local traffic laws and stay off sidewalks.

Salam says the company hasn’t had a single security incident since its inception and customers rarely leave their scooters on sidewalks or roads. The Go X system detects when a scooter has been abandoned, stolen or broken.

Biki always goes

Honolulu’s bike share system, Bikinearly foundered during the pandemic but survived “the shock of reduced ridership and supply chain issues,” says Todd Boulanger, executive director of Bikeshare Hawaii.

This year, Biki celebrated its fifth anniversary and reached more than 5 million rides, which equates to 11 million kilometers traveled on Biki bikes, according to Boulanger. The non-profit organization claims to have more than 100 stops and 1,000 bikes in its fleet.

According to a 2021 report by Biki, bicycles are most widely used in Waikīkī (38%) and the Ala Moana/Kaka’ako region (27%); 19% of Biki users said they used the bikes to connect to TheBus.

Electric bike ?

Boulanger says Biki is considering adding e-bikes and “waiting for that broader community discussion.” Biki has a prototype e-bike called “E-Fit” which he says has been successfully tested in Barcelona, ​​Spain; Monegasque; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Santiago, Chile.

Boulanger notes that Biki was supposed to open at the same time as the Honolulu rail system. But the train still isn’t running, and he says the city should “double or triple” its support for Biki to help passengers get to their destination, especially if the rail doesn’t get to the Ala Moana Center.

The city gave Biki a $1 million grant in 2014–15 for pre-launch work, but no financial support since then. Biki’s operations depend on revenue from fares, sponsorship and grants, Boulanger says. “However, they are essential partners in the areas of accommodation and station licensing,” he said.

These areas include building protected bike lane networks and other complete street projects “that give Biki customers a safer place to ride.” The pandemic has demonstrated another reason why micromobility vehicles are valuable, Boulanger says.

“City management realized we were an essential service because people were looking for alternatives because they didn’t want to be inside TheBus or Uber during Covid.

A growing number of electric cars and trucks

Honolulu has 598,028 registered passenger vehicles, according to the city 2021 Sustainability Report. Electric vehicle registrations, meanwhile, have risen from 9,644 in 2020 to 12,240 in 2021.

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