Wheels’ dockless e-bikes compete with ‘micro-mobility’ options in Austin

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AUSTIN — From dogs to dockless, Wag! founders Joshua & Jonathan Viner are bringing new e-bikes to the streets of Austin with Wheels.

Wheels are another alternative to “micro-mobility” in the city. The brothers hope to disrupt the market with them.

“It’s a solution where cars don’t necessarily make sense. It could be a traffic issue. It could be a parking issue,” Wheels spokesperson Jodi Bart Holzband explained. “University of Texas games, or when there’s South By Southwest, things like that… It’s great to have another option that can safely transport people where they need to go.”

The company received a permit from the City of Austin for 500 e-bikes. They started deploying them Friday morning, reaching the total number over the next few weeks.

Austin is a perfect city and Texas is a great state for the micro-mobility market.

Holzband

Austin is Wheels’ 7th target market and 2nd city overall in Texas.

“Wheels actually launched in September in Dallas and has gotten a great reception there,” Holzband said. “Austin has, we all know this: it’s innovation, tech-focused, got tons and tons of visitors and people coming, and so we’re very open to these kinds of solutions.”

Holzband discussed known issues for micro-mobility and how the company is addressing them.

Issues for micro-mobility:

  • Sustainability
  • Accessibility
  • Safety

Sustainability

We all have seen scooters and other e-bikes thrown into vehicles to be swapped and charged at warehouses. Wheels has a distinct approach.

“Wheels is different,” Holzband said. “They actually come with swappable batteries.”

Staff will come and bring a fresh battery so the e-bikes can remain at their sites. It’s aimed to save gas.

Accessibility

Wheels hopes to attract riders looking for a “last-mile solution” they can easily step onto.

“The e-bikes are really low to the ground,” Holzband said. “There are five points of contact between the person on the bike and ground.”

The company also hopes they appeal to those who can’t stand for long periods of time.

Safety

Safety is super important

Holzband

The company is rolling out helmets in the near future. They will be attached to the e-bikes so riders will not have to carry their own.

“Those will have peel-off liners that are bio-degradable so that it’s also clean,” Holzband said.

The e-bikes will have features in their app to encourage riders to use the helmets.

Beyond the helmets, the e-bikes are built with well-being in mind.

“You feel a lot sturdier,” Holzband said. “They’re built for multi-surface. They will be rolled out in Europe on cobblestone streets. They are made to stay upright and keep you safe.”

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