Bike-share system pedals to the fore


Program with 100 bikes expected to debut in June

By June, Aspenites making a quick trip to the grocery store or heading to Smuggler Mountain for a lunchtime hike will have a new option to get there through a fledgling bike-share program, the Pitkin County commissioners were told Tuesday.

WE-cycle co-founder Mirte Mallory said 100 bikes placed at 12 stations in the city from Smuggler to Aspen Valley Hospital are expected to be ready by the end of May.

Residents will be able to rent a three-speed, 50-pound bike for various lengths of time, ranging from a 24-hour pass for $7 to $55 for a season pass.

The program is designed for short-duration trips around town, Mallory said. Passes will allow users 30 minutes on a bike at a time before prohibitive fees, designed to dissuade people from keeping the bikes for long periods, kick in. Those fees are still being established.

“Individuals seeking to ride bikes for longer trips will be encouraged to rent a bike at a local bike shop,” according to a memo to the commissioners. “WE-cycle will be reiterating that bike share is not bike rental on system materials, and bike-shop locations will be featured on the WE-cycle maps.”

The board was briefed on the program’s progress because the county is a founding partner along with the city of Aspen, the Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Valley Hospital, The Aspen Institute, Aspen Meadows, the Nick DeWolf Foundation, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and other entities.

Season-pass holders will be given a key to access the bikes, while others can pay at a station kiosk. After the trip the bike is returned to one of the 12 stations. A smart-phone app will be available to tell cyclists whether a station is full so they can ride to another site, Mallory said.

The system is designed for someone headed into town for lunch, picking up mail and the like, she said. Other station sites include Rubey Park, the Aspen Club and The Aspen Institute.

With the program, Aspen will join bike-share systems in London, Melbourne, Australia, Boston, Minneapolis and other cities.

“Aspen is the only small town that has this program,” Commissioner George Newman said.

“Which is very exciting,” Mallory said.

WE-cycle, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has been working on making the bike-share idea a reality for about three years. The county and the city will own the bikes, and WE-cycle will operate the system.

WE-cycle staff, for instance, will monitor stations to ward against excesses and shortages of bikes, Mallory said.

Money for the program’s initial stages came from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which funds projects aimed at improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion.

Commissioner Rob Ittner said it’s important for the program’s longevity that it reach the point of self-sustainability. He said he wants to be briefed on the program’s capital expenses and its membership.

Educating the community about the system will take some time, Mallory said, adding that the program will be tweaked based on demand.

Pass sales, trip fees and sponsorships on the bikes and stations — 50 bikes that can be named in honor of someone remain available — will fund WE-cycle operations.

“I’m glad it’s getting off the ground,” Commissioner Steve Child said.