Electric Bluebikes have hit the streets. Here's how they work

Happy winter! The solstice officially arrives tonight and the MBTA shuttle buses have already gone into hibernation (at least for two weeks). But this newsletter isn’t hibernating quite yet. To the news:

The electric Bluebike rollout has begun: The Boston-area bikeshare system added its first 50 electric bikes to the fleet yesterday — and another 700 are expected to hit the streets over the coming months in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville and Everett. Stacy Thompson, the head of transit advocacy group Livable Streets, told WBUR’s John Bender the expansion will make Bluebikes more inclusive: “If you’re intimidated by a hill, if the length of a ride feels a little scary, an e-bike will be able to help those folks out.”

  • Rules of the road: While e-bikes are allowed in bike lanes and shared paths, they are not allowed on sidewalks. The system will also use Lyft’s electric-assist bicycle, which provides a battery-powered boost when riders pedal hard, up to a max of 18 mph. (You can read more about the e-bikes’ specs here.)
  • At what cost: The e-bikes will be a little more expensive than a regular Bluebike. For most riders, it will cost 25 cents-a-minute, in addition to the usual charges, like the $3.13 to unlock a bike. But if you pay for a monthly or annual Bluebikes membership, the cost is a dime-a-minute (with no unlock fee). Those in Bluebikes’ low-income program can use them for seven cents-a-minute.
  • How do I find an e-bike? According to Bluebikes, the best way is to use their mobile app, which will display a little “bolt” under the bike’s icon to show there’s one available at a station.

FYI: Could Massachusetts follow Colorado’s lead and bar former president Donald Trump from the state’s March 5 primary ballot? Secretary of State Bill Galvin is planning to put Trump on the ballot, but his office expects a new challenge could be on the way in the Bay State.

  • Last week, the Boston Herald reported that labor lawyer and former attorney general candidate Shannon Liss-Riordan is trying to recruit prominent local Republicans and Democrats to join a legal fight to ban Trump from the Massachusetts ballot. Some legal scholars say a section of the 14th Amendment that prohibits anyone “engaged in insurrection” from elected office should apply to Trump, due to his role in the Jan. 6th attack on the Capitol. While several states have rejected such challenges, Colorado’s Supreme Court became the first to agree on Wednesday.
  • What’s next: Trump’s campaign plans to appeal the Colorado ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. Click here for more on what’s next in the process and how legal experts think it will unfold.
  • FWIW: Galvin previously suggested the “best way” opponents of Trump should block the ex-president from office “is to vote.”

Meanwhile: Another presidential ballot controversy is playing out in Massachusetts. Both of President Joe Biden’s primary challengers — Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips — are up in arms about the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s decision to submit only Biden’s name for the state’s March 5 primary ballot.

  • What’s next: Phillips and Williamson can still get on the March 5 ballot if they submit 2,500 signatures this week (Williamson will not, according to Politico). Or, Galvin unilaterally can add them if he decides they’ve gotten enough national media attention to deserve a spot. The deadline for that decision is Jan. 5.

PSA: About 50,000 Massachusetts residents just became eligible for ConnectorCare, the state’s subsidized health insurance program. The state expanded its income limits this year, just as thousands are losing health coverage through MassHealth.

  • The deets: Thanks to the pilot expansion, individuals making at most $72,000 a year or a family of four bringing in $150,000 or less will be able to enroll in the 2024 plans, which offer “$0 or low monthly premiums, low out-of-pocket costs and no deductibles.”
  • The deadline: Sign up by this Saturday if you want a plan that starts on Jan. 1, 2024. Open enrollment will continue now through Jan. 23

P.S.— 2023 has been a year of MBTA struggles. But could 2024 be the year of T-riumph? Radio Boston will have MBTA General Manager Phil Eng live on the show today to discuss at 11 a.m. If you have questions, send them in through the Radio Boston text club.