Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Share the bikes in Hailey?

Mountain Rides considering Social Bicycles deal


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

A bike share program proposed for the city of Hailey by Social Bicycles, a fledging New York City company, would use an electronic lock system that could be activated by cell phone or computer or by hand. Courtesy photo.

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority is evaluating a proposed contract from a fledgling New York City company that would bring a bicycle sharing program to the city of Hailey.

With a bike share program, people who don't own bikes, or would like to participate just for the sport of it, can subscribe to the program and grab a bike for a spin around the city. They park the bike when they're finished and it becomes available for other subscribers.

A proposed contract for a Hailey bike share program, offered by Social Bicycles, a relative newcomer to the bike share market, was discussed at a Mountain Rides board of directors meeting Dec. 21, and a vote on the tentative contract could come as early as the board's next regular meeting in January.

If approved, a bike share program could be up and running in Hailey by late spring or early summer, said Eric Grootveld, Mountain Rides bike and pedestrian coordinator.

Mountain Rides currently has $20,000 set aside for the program, courtesy of an Environmental Protection Agency grant earlier this year to the city of Hailey. The EPA award, a Climate Showcase Community Grant worth $472,000, gives the city three years to expand and promote green initiatives as a demonstration project.

Hailey is one of 25 cities nationwide to receive the EPA climate showcase awards.

The proposed bike share program is only one segment of the Hailey grant program. Mountain Rides was recruited as a partner to establish and administer the bike share program.

While bike share programs have been in place since the 1960s in Europe, the concept is relatively new to the United States. Programs have been established in recent years in Washington, D.C., Denver and Portland, Ore., and a pilot is being developed by Social Bicycles for New York City.

Typical bike share programs require real estate acquisition and building central bike checkout hubs, but Social Bicycles, often referred to as SoBi, has introduced a new concept to the market.

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Rather than having a central hub, each bicycle in a SoBi system is fitted with an electronic lock system that can be activated by cell phone or computer or by hand. The attached lock system would do away with the need for a central hub because bicycles could be locked to any existing bike rack or other solid object.

Included with the locks are GPS trackers so that bicycle whereabouts can always be known.

Grootveld told the Mountain Rides board of directors that the SoBi system would seem the most applicable to the needs of Hailey.

Nonetheless, there are still some fine points to be worked out before Mountain Rides is ready to decide on a contract with the company, the main issue being finances.

According to the proposed contract, SoBi would provide up to 20 bicycles, each equipped with the electronic lock box at a total cost of $1,100 per unit, broken down at $700 for the bicycle and $400 for the lock. The SoBi bicycles are described in company literature as three-speed, shaft-driven urban models.

SoBi would also charge a one-time $2,000 implementation fee, as well as monthly or yearly host fees for the bicycles and lock systems.

Those costs would exceed the $20,000 set aside for the program, and Grootveld told the board of directors that if it accepts the SoBi offer, Mountain Rides and the city of Hailey would have to settle for fewer than 20 bikes.

As an alternative, Grootveld said, he is exploring the possibility of local vendors' donating bicycles for the program and seeing if SoBi is able, or agreeable, to mounting their lock systems on non-SoBi bikes.

Grootveld said he hopes to have those answers before the proposed SoBi contract is put to the Mountain Rides board of directors.

He said the city of Hailey is "aware and OK with either scenario."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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