SALT LAKE CITY — How would you like to be able to quickly and inexpensively check out a bike for scooting around downtown?
Utah's capital city is exploring such a program, like others springing up around the country.
It's called bike sharing, and it's a simple concept. You show up at a bike kiosk or rack, swipe your credit card and you're on your way.
Right now, Salt Lake City has one rental bike and a manager for the bike-share program, Ben Bolte.
"I think we've got to kind of look for creative solutions and new opportunities to get around our city," Bolte said.
The vision is to make Salt Lake City more bike-friendly than ever by installing automated bike-sharing stations in strategic locations such as the Gallivan Center, Gateway, City Creek, City Hall, the intermodal hub and other rail stops.
"We have a lot of great public transit expansions happening in the city, to the city and out of the city," said Bianca Shreeve, assistant Mayor Ralph Becker's chief of staff. "So it's a really sensible next step for highlighting our public transit."
Paris pioneered the idea four years ago and now boasts 20,000 bicycles and more than 1,000 stations. U.S. cities such as Washington, D.C., and Denver have since adopted their own pedal-powered programs.
Next year, New York City looks to kick start a 10,000-bike program, joining the likes of Minneapolis, Boston and Boulder, Colo., each with hundreds of bikes.
Salt Lake City and the Downtown Alliance have partnered to form a bike-share nonprofit group. They're in talks with various corporations, looking to raise $750,000 to fund a system of 10 to 12 solar-powered, automated racks, about 120 bikes, cell connectivity and a website.
They hope to have the program operating sometime next year.
The bike racks would include a credit card swipe system, a map and bike dock to lock bikes. Memberships would range from $5 for a 24-hour rental to $75 for an annual pass.
To protect a rider's clothes, each bike would be equipped with mud flaps, chain guards and dress guards. There would also feature a rack to carry a briefcase or purse.
The program's leaders say the two-wheeled health and environmental benefits are real.
"We're trying to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and get everybody a little fitter," Bolte said.
The bike-sharing program is seen as the next step in Mayor Becker's plans to make Salt Lake City one of the most bikeable cities in the country.
Earlier this month, the city announced that Salt Lake City saw a 27 percent increase in the number of cyclists on its streets from 2010 to 2011.4 comments on this story
Since Becker took office nearly four years ago, Salt Lake City has added approximately 50 miles of new on-road bikeways.
The city used volunteers to collect the data, surveying 16 locations during the second week of September. The 27 percent increase was calculated by comparing the numbers with those from the 12 locations that were included in both the 2010 and 2011 counts.
To find out more about bicycling in Salt Lake City, and view a recently updated citywide bikeways map, visit to www.slcgov.com/bike/.
Contributing: Jared Page