Zagster uses a fun name not just for its bike- and scooter-sharing company’s moniker. It calls the concept of inexpensive, basic, short-term, short-distance, single-rider mobility solutions “microtransit.”
Zagster started in the microtransit solutions business back in 2012, with a bike-sharing service. Today the Boston-based company offers pedal bike, electric bike, and electric scooter sharing services in 250 different fleet programs in the U.S., and also employs local crews to maintain and re-distribute the fleet within each location.
Small and medium cities are well represented in the Zagster landscape, with the shared goals of reduction in downtown car traffic, noise, and emissions. In addition, building managers have opted into Zagster bike fleets as an added-value offering to tenants, be they businesses or private residents. Some cities and towns also offer a Zagster fleet in park settings to take advantage of trails and nature.
The Zagster bike itself was actually designed by the company for the express purpose of sharing. It’s a cruiser-type bike that emphasizes comfort and provides some storage.
How do I use a Zagster bike?
As with other sharing services for bikes, scooters, and cars, Zagster is built around e-payment through your smartphone. Bikes are secured through an electronic lock accessed by any iOS or Android mobile device through the Zagster app.
How do you rent a bike? First, locate the Zagster station nearest you. Once there, enter the number provided on the bike itself (located on the frame’s middle downtube). Then, enter the access code delivered to your phone into the keypad at the back of the bike. That’s the end of the electronic part.
When the keypad opens, it gives you access to a cable-tethered key that also unlocks the bike’s U-shaped lock. Let the key retract into the bin under the keypad, and don’t forget to stow the lock on board the bike or in a backpack – you’re going to need it to secure the bike if you make any stops along the way. Then you can then begin riding.
Don’t take off until you’ve put on your helmet, though. Some cities don’t require a helmet when riding a bike or scooter, but chances are that you’ll need it most when you’re not wearing one. Using that reasoning, if you always wear one, you’ll never have a need for one. And wear eye protection. Proper motorcyclists wear them; you should too.
Since the locking system is on the bike, you can actually make however many stops on your journey as you like before you’re done. The keypad and the app keep track of the time the bike has been used, and the clock doesn’t stop so taking a long lunch will count toward your bike-ride time total.
When you’re done with your ride, return the bike to any Zagster location, park and relock it, and end the ride using the app. Unlike “free-floating” bikes or scooters that you can leave anywhere, you must park and leave a Zagster bike at a specific location. Any final charges will appear within the app.
What does it cost to use a Zagster bike?
Zagster’s fees vary by location and are based on the underwriting program and arrangement, whether with municipalities, colleges, large-scale employers, etc.
Usually, city-based fleets are funded in part by government grants, which generally reduce the cost to the user the most. Privately-funded programs usually pass on more of the true cost to the user, though these bikes could be in better condition for a longer duration.
In a sampling of several colleges, we found charges ranging from $15.00 to $35.00 per year, with the first two hours of each ride being free, and a $2.00 per-hour charge thereafter.
Like most microtransit solutions, Zagster is fairly cost effective unless you use it often and for a long time. Electric cruiser bikes start at more than $600 (sketchy Amazon off-brands), while a Pedego or Trek starts well over $3,000.
Of course, there’s always old-fashioned pedaling, which has contributed to Zagster users burning a reported 658 million calories since 2007.