Organizers are turning to electric assistance to give Baltimore's long-delayed bike-share program a jolt.

The city's planned bike share will lean heavily on electric assistance, with 200 of 500 bicycles featuring electric pedal assistance known as pedelec systems, officials said Wednesday. The 200 assisted bicycles will make Baltimore the largest pedelec bike-share system in the Western Hemisphere, according to the company the city selected as the program's vendor, Bewegen Technologies Inc.

A functional bike share is critical for the city's business and tourism sectors, said Jon Laria, managing partner of the law firm Ballard Spahr LLP's Baltimore office and chair of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's bicycle advisory committee.

"This is a market-driven initiative," Laria said. "It's an economic imperative. People want these options, and the city has to provide them if we're going to remain competitive in the national and global marketplace for people to locate here, for businesses to come, for residents to come."

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