If you’ve ever ridden a Citi Bike, you may have recognized that many of the thrills of city cycling are absent: speed, maneuverability, brushes with death. Those things are bulky and slow, by design—Citi Bikes are manufactured to discourage the risk-taking habits that infuriate drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists alike. One might think, hey, that’s not such a bad idea, given that there were an estimated 286 traffic fatalities in New York City last year.
The cumbersomeness of the bikes makes them kind of a pain in the ass to ride, though (ever tried going across a bridge on one?). A New York-based inventor named Jeff Guida seeks to change that with the ShareRoller, a detachable electric motor that will power your Citi Bike without you have to do much of anything. “It’s designed to make riding a Citi Bike a pleasure instead of a chore,” Guida says.
The ShareRoller weighs about seven pounds, comes with a built-in USB charger, and will power your bike (or personal scooter!) at up to 18 m.p.h. over a range of 12-20 miles. Although the 18 m.p.h. speed has caught some flak, Guida insists that’s the speed at which an experienced cyclist pedaling at a high rate would go on a Citi Bike in third gear. “It levels the playing field,” he says. Besides, “studies have shown that speed differential is what causes accidents.”
Guida is currently raising funds for the project on Kickstarter, and hopes to have production kits on the market by June. There’s just one (big) problem: electric bicycles are banned in New York City. Guida says the ShareRoller was designed to be exempt, though. The law states that any wheeled device “powered by an electric motor or by a gasoline motor that is capable of propelling the device without human power” cannot be registered with the DMV. The ShareRoller doesn’t kick in until the bike is already traveling at 1-2 m.p.h.–in other words, it’s technically not capable of propelling a bike until after the rider-human has started pedaling.
Guida won’t speak about Citi Bike’s response to the ShareRoller, but he says he has been contacted by multiple bike share programs across the U.S. and abroad, and all of them have expressed interest in working with him. Someday soon, New Yorkers may be able to coast on Citi Bikes to work, dates, or wherever, sweat-free.