Salt Lake City's bike sharing initiative ready to launch

Published: Sunday, April 7 2013 9:55 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake City officials and Bike Share SLC announce a Green Bike partnership bike share program in Salt Lake City Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The bike program will begin in April 2013.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's capital will become the 20th city in the United States to adopt a small-distance bike sharing program when it launches GREENbike Monday and introduces a fleet of 100 bicycles and 10 kiosks throughout downtown.

Residents can check out a GREENbike and make quick trips across the city for up to 30 minutes before checking in at another solar-powered kiosk.

Riders, for example, can rent a bike from a kiosk near the LDS Church Office Building and ride to the Intermodal Hub to catch FrontRunner. Or at Salt Lake Main Library, patrons could grab a bike and ride to Squatter's Pub Brewery for lunch.

Riders can use these 30-minute sessions on an unlimited basis for the price of a $5 day pass, a $15 weekly pass or $75 for an annual pass. Day passes can be purchased at a kiosk using a debit or credit card (not cash). Longer-term passes can be purchased online at www.greenbikeslc.org.  

“It just goes to show that alternative transportation is a big part of the city’s future,” said Nick Como, a spokesman for Downtown Alliance, which assisted the city’s Transportation Division and its Bike Salt Lake City program in completing the project. “Between all of this, as well as new TRAX lines to West Valley City and the airport, you could really eliminate having to use a car.”

One catch: Riders will face additional charges if they check out bikes for longer than 30 minutes — $2 for the first half hour past the limit and $5 for each subsequent half-hour. But city officials say the goal of the bike sharing is ease of travel from one business or lunch obligation to the next rather than daylong recreation. Trips longer than 30 minutes will be rare because even the outlying stations are no farther than a mile from each other.

“An important thing for folks to understand is that this isn’t a program where you check out a bike to ride around for the day,” said city spokesman Art Raymond. “It’s designed for short hops throughout the city.”

Each bike kiosk, however, is located within two blocks or less of a TRAX line within the free ride zone. But GREENbike Project Director Ben Bolte isn't worried this will cause potential bicycle riders to take the train instead. Biking has separate advantages over taking the train within a concentrated downtown area, he said, where a mass transit commute typically slows down considerably. 

"It’s actually a good partnership. Light rail is great at carrying you long distances, but what TRAX is not good at is getting you to exactly where you want to go," Bolte said. "Still, we want the stops close enough to where you can hop on TRAX if you need to."

The city estimates that the GREENbike system, which will operate 24/7, will save about 77,000 vehicles miles in its first year.

“We’ll all choke if we don’t get emissions down. It’s going to be a big problem for the whole Wasatch Front unless we do something about it,” said Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa. “(The GREENBike program) will increase people’s mobility, because the roads aren’t getting any bigger and have to be shared — cars, pedestrians, bikes, the TRAX train, buses. You can throw taxis in there too.”

The city estimates that some of the bike share’s busiest kiosks will be at the Intermodal Hub, the Gallivan Center and City Creek Center mall. GREENbike may double its number of kiosks by the end of the year if the project is financially successful.

“By next year, we could be up to 15-20 stations with the help of additional sponsors,” Como said. “They’re what makes this thing go.”

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