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Biking Sharing Program Discussed at BLC

Published April 16, 2009

MONTEREY, CA (BRAIN)—The industry is keeping an eye on a new venture taking shape in Denver. Will 65 kiosks housing 1,000 bikes alter this sprawling Western city’s attitude toward bicycles and commuting?

It’s a multi-million dollar experiment that will launch in August with 25 high-tech kiosks housing 250 bikes. The full program would come on line in 2010, Andrew Davison told more than 100 participants at Thursday’s Bicycle Leadership Conference.

The 35-to-40 pound bikes, built by Trek, have step-through frames, internal three-speed hubs, enclosed chains and a front basket that’s part of the frame. Call them “sturdy.” Besides Trek, the other partners are Humana and Crispin Porter & Bogusky.

The project got its start at last summer’s Democratic and Republican nominating conventions where Humana teamed with various companies to provide bikes for delegates to ride while at the convention.

Davison said initial funding for the project came from a city of Denver grant of $1 million, a $250,000 grant from the Walton Foundation, and another $250,000 in donations from a variety of citizens in the region. Users will also pay a fee each time they check a bike out of a kiosk. The goal is to eventually generate about $1.3 million a year in user fees.

Costs will vary over time but projections are that to keep one bike in service for a year costs approximately $4,000. To keep a 1,000-bike fleet in operation will require about $4 million in annual funding. Part of the money will be to pay for employees—about one employee per 70 to 80 bikes.

Part of the financial plan also calls for selling a key sponsorship, Davison explained. For example, a company like Starbucks or Subaru could place their logos on the bikes and kiosks for an annual fee of $1.8 to $2 million, he said.

Another unique aspect of the program are the kiosks. Each would be set up with Wi-Fi capability—most of them solar powered—running a social networking web structure that would allow users to communicate with each other to form a cycling community.

Davison was part of a panel on Bike Sharing projects now in place in Lyon, France, Atlanta, Georgia, and Sunnyvale, California.

Gilles Vesco oversees the bike-sharing program in Lyon where some 4,000 bikes are dispersed at 340 stations. Each bike, he said, is used on average about seven times a day and over the course of year account for about 37 million kilometers of travel, cutting some 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Jennifer Paedon is Lockheed Martin’s commute program manager. She overseas a project at the company’s Sunnyvale campus where 8,000 employees work. She hopes to have 378 bikes in use by the end of summer. Currently employees have about 250 bikes at their disposal. They are so popular that some hide the bikes in unused rooms so that they will have them handy later in the day, she said.

Also outlining a bike-share program was Jamie Smith, director of Bike Emory at Emory University in Atlanta. The campus is the fourth largest employer in the area with some 20,000 faculty and staff, in addition to its student population.

Because of its location, there is no easy access to major thoroughfares or freeways resulting in daily traffic congestion. While the number of bikes in use on the campus serves just a fraction of the population, it’s a start at introducing a culture of bicycle commuting, he said.

—Marc Sani

Topics associated with this article: Events

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