Ann Arbor Introduces SPIN E-bikes to the Streets

Ann Arbor is pulling out all of the stops to increase transit options for its residents in order to meet its goal of making the community carbon neutral by the end of this decade; including electric vehicle charging, improved mass transit options, biking, and now SPIN’s e-bikes.

“People will vote by the mile. We’ll see some of the aspects of this relationship. We’re going to get a fair amount of data about the use of the e-bikes and we’ll see how many people use it, where they use it, and we’ll take it from there,” Mayor Chris Taylor (Democrat) said.

How many E-bikes will be available to Ann Arborites is going to depend on how much they get used. The first 100 bikes that the San Francisco-based, German-owned company SPIN unveiled on March 31 are the first batch of up to 400 that the City of Ann Arbor is planning on getting if demand is met.

“If demand necessitates, we will increase that number [of bikes],” SPIN’s Head of Government Partnerships for the Central United States Jimmy Gilman said.

These e-bikes accompany the 400 e-scooters SPIN has already provided to the City, which can also be accessed with the same app. The distinctive orange bikes are more heavy-duty than others, according to Gilman, to ensure that they last longer than competitors. They can go as fast as 20 miles per hour and come with a range of 50 miles at maximum charge.

“I think it makes operating a bike incredibly accessible because you don’t need to be an athlete to operate these bikes,” Councilor Dharma Akmon (Democrat – Ward 4) said.

The bikes are going to be distributed all around Ann Arbor so anyone can use them. University of Michigan students from overseas and recent immigrants will also be helped by the fact that SPIN is usable in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, and Filipino, as well as English.

According to SPIN, this transit option is designed around the 15-minute city concept. Put simply: this is an urban planning concept to create a situation where everything anyone could ever need–grocery stores, restaurants, repair shops, schools, hospitals, and even just fun things to do–is never more than a 15-minute travel time from any given address in a city.

This in turn decreases the need for cars, reducing congestion, greenhouse emissions, and time wasted, while maximizing the freedom of individuals by increasing their options in every social and economical way possible.

“In a nutshell, cities should be designed, or redesigned, so that within the distance of a 15-minute walk or bike ride, people should be able to live the essence of what constitutes the urban experience,” Carlos Moreno, the Franco-Colombian urban planning academic who coined the idea, explained in a 2021 Ted Talk video.

Some conspiracy theorists have seen this as a big-government way of controlling people by limiting their movement by eliminating cars, but to advocates it is all about maximizing options.

Data about the number of times the bike has been used is recorded. But both Taylor and Gilman told Current that no personal data, or GPS data is recorded.

Cost equity is also being tackled through the e-bikes to combat Ann Arbor’s legendarily high cost of living. According to Gilman, anyone who receives public assistance in the city of any kind will be able to receive a substantial discount on the cost of using the e-bikes. This Spin Access program can be accessed even if you’re unbanked, by texting a cash code to 206-800-6703.

According to the City of Ann Arbor, you will need to fill out a short form to qualify with an email, phone number, and proof of address, as well as a photo of a Medicare, Medicaid, WIC, ADA, reduced transit fair or food stamp card. Residents of the Ann Arbor Housing Authority are automatically enrolled in the program, according to the Ann Arbor Transportation Manager Trevor Bryndon.

The U of M also has its own separate arrangement with SPIN, which will get another 100 e-bikes to campus this month, according to a press release.

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