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City To Consider Extending Bike Share Program

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The City of Gainesville will discuss paying $62,000 to extend its bike share program for another two years in at a Commission meeting Thursday.

The city previously allocated $34,000 for the program’s launch last May and 16 bicycles were distributed to two stations. In August, the city added two more locations and six more bikes.

“We have about 500 people that we’ve identified as active users,” Gainesville spokesman Chip Skinner said.

The city partnered with Zagster, a bike share company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to provide the bikes and stations, Skinner said.

Users have different options when choosing how to rent a bike. The cost for renting a bike is $3 an hour. However, a person can choose to be a monthly member for $15 a month and ride at the same rate. The exception for monthly members is that rides under one hour are free. There is an option for annual members at $25 a year, with the same rule about free rides under one hour. There is an $18 overtime charge if the bike is kept longer than 24 hours.

According to Zagster’s data in the city’s 2016 usage report, the program had 386 members in 2016, including daily, monthly and annual members, with a total of 785 rentals.

“It may be a household that has a husband and wife for instance,” Skinner said. “We don’t actually track individual users, we’re tracking those accounts.”

The city would pay two annual installments of $28,000. The remaining $34,000 will come from user fees paid quarterly by Zagster to the city. Current Zagster stations are located at Bo Diddley Plaza, the Rosa Parks Downtown Station near Depot Park, at SW 3rd Avenue and SW 13th Street, and at SW 2nd Avenue and Sixth Street Trail.

The extension of the bike share program will not cause an increase in prices for renting the bikes, Skinner said. Possible expansion down the road might cause prices to go up, but Skinner said the city is pursuing different funding partners to offset costs, such as small businesses that may choose to have one outside.

While the University of Florida has its own bike share program and no current Zagster stations, Skinner said the school is interested in possibly adding one in the future.

“It’s much more cost-feasible for someone to become an annual user instead of going out and buying a $400 or $500 bicycle,” Skinner said.

Sam Harris, a mobile bicycle mechanic for Zagster, said he checks twice a week for the location of bikes. Every two weeks the bikes go through a safety inspection to check their condition.

“Any kind of repairs that need to be made, I do that at that point,” Harris said. “Within a two week cycle, every bike is worked on and kept up to speed.”

Zagster has Harris check the bicycles for any problems before they reach a customer. This may include both functional and superficial hazards.

“These are very well made bikes, and they’re simple for the customers as well as for maintenance,” Harris said. “They’re pretty easy to keep in good shape, and fortunately the company has made the commitment to keep them that way.”

Sebastian Morfin, a UF student, has never considered renting a bike but is open to having rentals available on campus.

“It’s just convenient,” Morfin said. “Gainesville is pretty bike friendly, especially campus.”

About Eric Heubusch

Eric Heubusch is a reporter at WUFT News in Gainesville, Florida. He is a senior at the University of Florida majoring in journalism.

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