Salt Lake City rolls out bike-share plans
Starting in March, riders will be able to tool around town on borrowed wheels.
Paul Fraughton | Tribune file photo
Bike Share Project Manager Ben Bolte demonstrates how to use a bike-share station during a 2012 press conference. Bike Share will begin in Salt Lake City in March 2013.
From Beijing to Paris, New York to Denver, the worldwide bicycle-sharing movement is about to gain another spin city: Salt Lake.
On Tuesday, the Downtown Alliance, along with Mayor Ralph Becker and sponsors Kennecott and SelectHealth, unveiled plans to roll out bike sharing in Utah's capital in March 2013.
The project calls for spreading about 100 bikes across 10 to 12 solar-powered stations around downtown hot spots such as City Creek Center, The Gateway and the intermodal hub. From there, participants can grab a set of wheels and tool around town.
The program is not for renting; it's for sharing. Citygoers can buy daily or yearly memberships - ranging from $5 to $75 - that allow them to travel between downtown stations for 30 minutes or less. When the green-savvy travelers are done riding, they leave the bikes at a secure station, where daily maintenance and cleaning occurs.
Seventy percent of all car trips are under two miles, said Bike Share Project Manager Ben Bolte. "That's what these kind of systems are trying to take care of."
The Downtown Alliance expects the program to help commuters, tourists and locals, Bolte said, with added benefits of cleaning the air and thinning the vehicle traffic.
It could also help slim waistlines and fatten wallets.
"It's said that Americans love their cars," said freshman City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa, head of the city's Redevelopment Agency Board. "I guess they love their cars even more than they love their pocketbooks."
LaMalfa noted that motorists spend an average of about $8,000 a year driving their cars.
Switching from driving to biking downtown has saved Bolte a "ton of money."
Sugar House resident Kris Lander, who attended Tuesday's announcement with his purple bike and multicolored biking gloves in tow, said the new program sounds "pretty exciting."
Lander started cycling to work downtown every day - and that was 30 pounds ago. He plans to use the new bike-share program along with the upcoming Sugar House trolley.
"We're looking at something that improves health, improves air quality, reduces traffic congestion," said Patricia Richards, CEO of SelectHealth, "and it's just another way that expresses what a neat place Salt Lake City is."
Rio Tinto's Kennecott Utah Copper, another of the program's roughly half dozen sponsors, noted company efforts to clean up the air in its operations and sees bike sharing as an extension of that push.
"We're taking steps to reduce emissions inside our fence," Kennecott CEO Kelly Sanders said. "This is just one example of us going outside our fence and trying to supply solutions to the air-quality issues that we face."
Jason Mathis, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, said the program needs more funding if it's to grow. But the RDA Board, which is the City Council, gave it a $244,500 kick start on Tuesday.
After all, the program has a key fan: the mayor.
"A year from now," Becker said, "you'll be seeing these bikes all around town."
Take a bike,leave a bike
Specs • One size fits all, three-speed internal hubs, LED lights, chain guards, skirt guards, GPS, baskets, bike locks
Cost • $5 for 24-hour access; $75 memberships are good for a year
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