AP NEWS

Transportation Reinventing the wheel

October 9, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Bike sharing, an idea that’s worked well in some cities and not so well in others, could be coming soon to a corner near you.

The idea is still in the training-wheel stage. But regional planners and other officials hope to encourage pedaling to nearby destinations instead of taking cars, and that more than a few will give up cars altogether.

Greater Bridgeport Transit and the Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments, or MetroCOG, are looking a various bike-sharing systems that would service Bridgeport, Fairfield and Stratford — and perhaps Trumbull, Monroe and Easton.

Bridgeport, Fairfield and Stratford are seen as better candidates, because they have denser development and they’re not very hilly.

New Haven got on the bike-sharing bandwagon in February 2018 — the Elm City now has nearly 30 bike-share docks throughout the central city, with more on the way. Hartford opened its Limebike program in June, although it’s one of the smaller systems.

Norwalk is expected to get a bike share system rolling sometime in 2019. Stamford lacks a public bike sharing program, although Stamford Towers, an office building, has its own bike-share system, as does Stamford’s Harbor Point, a high-rise apartment building.

Feedback welcome

Planners are trying to collect information through an online survey, which will also be available on paper at various events such as fairs and farmers’ markets. The survey can be taken on the GBT website, www.gogbt.com.

“We’re trying to find the best bike-sharing program for the region,” said Matt Fulda, MetroCOG’s executive director. “There are a number of systems out there, and we’re tryout to get as much public input as possible over the next few weeks.”

If a bike-sharing system does come to pass, the greater Bridgeport region would get something that many hundreds of cities worldwide already have — and could benefit from lessons learned by others.

In the Netherlands 53 years ago, the first so-called “white bike” program began with scores of bikes, painted white, being distributed throughout the city of Amsterdam. The idea was that a person could borrow a bike, ride it to their destination and leave it unlocked for the next rider.

Within days, most of the white bikes were either vandalized, stolen or tossed into Amsterdam’s canals.

But over time, technology made bike-sharing workable. In 1995, Copenhagen instituted a coin- operated system for bike sharing. This second-generation system was also free — you got your money back when you docked the bike.

In the early 2000s, third-generation bike-sharing programs were rolled out, at first using magnetic-stripe cards for access. The newest versions use mobile phone apps and GPS tracking technology. Typically, vendors use the profits from usage fees to maintain the system.

Getting the app

About 65 cities in the United States now have some form of bike sharing. The systems typically require users to have smart phones and a credit card account, a lot like getting a ride from Uber or Lyft.

Users, who have the correct bike-sharing app on their phones, scan the bike’s QR code at the docking station. This unlocks the bike and they’re on their way.

In most systems, users pay a monthly fee and this allows the user unlimited rides. In other systems, users pay a small additional fee for each rental.

For example, in the popular CitiBike system in New York City, the annual membership is $14.95 per month with annual commitment, or $169 per year. It includes unlimited number of 45-minute rides. If you keep a bike out for more than 45 minutes at a time, it’s an extra $2.50 per additional 15 minutes.

Officials say they they’re looking at proposals from a number of potential vendors. They’re also considering systems that offer electric scooters and electric-assist bicycles as well as human-powered bikes.

“The systems we’re looking at will operate at no cost to local governments,” said GBT Executive Director Doug Holcomb. “And we need some way to get people over the last mile.”

As for Amsterdam, that city, along with the rest of the Netherlands, today has a successful third-generation bike-sharing program.

jburgeson@ctpost.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly