A bike-sharing program set to launch this summer in Aspen received a $35,000 grant from Aspen City Council on Tuesday.
The grant will underwrite a kiosk near City Hall where residents and guests can pay a fee to rent a bike. The bike could then be returned to that kiosk, or one of a handful of other kiosks planned for around town.
The bike-sharing program, known as WE-cycle, is the brain child of Philip Jeffreys and Mirte Mallory, a local couple who need at least $250,000 in cash before February to get the loan necessary to acquire the kiosks and the bikes before the summer. They have been aggressively pitching private businesses around town to purchase advertising space that will be on the bikes and on the kiosks, they told council. However, they have just $27,000 committed so far, they said, adding that many businesses have indicated they would be more willing to contribute if the program also was receiving public funding.
One private donor pledged a $50,000 challenge grant, where he or she would match dollar-for-dollar grants coming from the city or county.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) provided a $10,000 grant for a kiosk to be placed near the Rubey Park transit center.
Councilman Dwayne Romero, who is the council’s representative to RFTA, said the board viewed the program as an extension of public transit, since people might be more encouraged to ride the bus if they knew they could easily rent a bike for quick trips around town.
The city funding is coming from left-over dollars from a “Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ)” grant. CMAQ is a federal program. The city received CMAQ funding to buy Toyota Priuses for its Car-To-Go program, but those cars were purchased for less money than originally anticipated, leaving about $35,000 left over. Council agreed to dedicate those funds to the bike-sharing program.
WE-cycle’s fees are structured to encourage rental for just an hour or two. After four hours, the fee becomes 50 percent more expensive than the average cost to rent a bike for that period time from an Aspen bike shop, Jeffreys said last fall. The bikes also would be heavier and have fewer gears than a standard bike from a rental shop.
Council previously said it would be willing to accept a $3,000 payment from WE-cycle to convert one parking space at the corner of Galena Street and Hopkins Avenue, in front of the Christian Dior boutique, for the City Hall kiosk. It also will waive fees to set up other kiosks on sidewalk space, which would total about $6,000.