City of Phoenix will launch bike sharing program by December

Customers will be able to use a a smartphone application or a website to reserve one of the 500 bikes to use around the city. Annual use will cost about $80 and riders will pay $4 an hour after the first free hour. (Alexis Macklin/DD)
Customers will be able to use a a smartphone application or a website to reserve one of the 500 bikes to use around the city. Annual use will cost about $80 and riders will pay $4 an hour after the first free hour. (Alexis Macklin/DD)

The city of Phoenix will provide about 500 bikes and 45 to 55 locations to rent them by December, which has mixed reviews from the community.

City of Phoenix Bicycle Coordinator Joseph Perez said the city is still negotiating a contract with CycleHop, that will operate the program. The program will also involve subcontractors Social Bicycles, that will supply the bikes, and SandVault, that will provide the stations. Once the contract is decided on, the public outreach phase will begin and it should launch by the end of the year.

According to information discussed at the Environmental Quality Commission meeting on June 20 at City Hall, participants will receive a pin code when they sign up for the program. This pin code will allow them to reserve and unlock bikes. The bike share program will be heavily driven by smart phones and be connected by an app to help locate bicycles. There will also be a website for people to connect to on a computer if they do not have access to a smart phone Perez said.

The program will be paid by private grants, customer fees, and sponsors and advertisements Perez said. He said there are currently no sponsors signed up to support the program, mostly because the contract is not definite yet.

CycleHop founder Josh Squire said not having a bike share program would be a bad idea for Phoenix.

“If you want to be a competitive city attracting young professionals and business, conventions, tourism, you have to offer this, because the other cities are.”

Member of the Phoenix Spokes People Lisa Parks said she thinks the bike share is great idea and that a lot of people will use it.

“It’s great that we are actually ahead of some cities,” she said. “You know, Portland doesn’t have their bike share yet, they’re going to get it probably about six months after we do. So it’s nice to be ahead of other cities because we are usually behind.”

However, Derrick Pacheco, owner of central Phoenix bike shop HoodRide, said the bike share does not seem to be the best idea for Phoenix at the moment because of the lack of infrastructure.

“We can’t even promote safe bike lane usage or bike pathway usage if our bike lanes are not clearly marked,” he said.

If Phoenix wants to be like other cities and have programs like the bike share, the city needs to start with the basics, Pacheco said.

“I think it’s kind of a trendy idea that doesn’t particularly fit our needs currently downtown,” Pacheco said. “I think it’s more of a waste of money, especially if we don’t already have the infrastructure and if we don’t already have the residents. A lot of residents around here already ride bikes, so to target a certain market that needs a bike rental, I think, is a little in the right direction but not exactly what Phoenix needs.”

Squire said lack of infrastructure is a common criticism of bike share programs.

“It’s sort of the chicken and the egg,” Squire said. “The reality is having a bike share program will help bring in bike lanes faster, because now the need has become more urgent. We recommend to get something going and then bring the infrastructure in at the same time or after.”

At the EQC meeting, Perez mentioned benefits that will come from Phoenix having a bike share program, saying the program will reduce traffic, contribute to less air pollution, compliment public transit and create jobs, adding that “cycling creates 11.4 jobs for every $1 million spent.”

Parks agreed cycling is great for the economy but because of cyclists’s behavior.

“Bicyclists do shop local more. We’re spending more money, because we go more often. And we have more money to spend when you’re spending less money on a car.”

Squire said a study was done in Minneapolis that demonstrated bike share increased economic activity with the program contributing $7 of additional economic activity per bike trip.

Parks said that compared to monthly light rail passes, which are $64, the membership fees for the bike share are “very affordable.”

There will be two different membership opportunities, one for annual usage that will cost between $79 to $89 and a walk-up tourist membership that will cost at least $5 per day, Perez said. Both annual members and tourists get the first hour with the bike free, after that each hour costs $4.

“In the short term, the tourists pay more,” Perez said. “They pay a minimum of $5 a day to unlock the bike. But if you were an annual member you aren’t paying anything unless you go over an hour.”

Perez and the city of Phoenix have ideas to expand the program if it is successful, such as branching out from the light rail area and giving other cities in the Valley the option of buying into the program.

“There are areas that the Light Rail doesn’t even serve that bike share can serve, and that’s something very unique to bike share and Social Bicycles equipment,” Squire said. “You could actually rent (a bike) from a bike station, but you could return it to any other public bike rack in town. Then we collect those bikes in the evening and they’re back at the hub station for the morning commute.”

Derrick Moennick of SandVault said bike shares promote bicycling in every city that it has been in.

“We are seeing huge success in cities like Miami Beach, New York City, Boston,” Moennick said. “SandVault is very excited about being part of the team and the transformation of Phoenix into more of a bike friendly city.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with comments from CycleHop founder Josh Squire and Derrick Moennick from SandVault.

Clarification: June 27, 2013

This article has been clarified to say CycleHop is running this program and Social Bicycles and SandVault are subcontractors.

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