SALT LAKE CITY — A new, untapped option for public transportation enhancement was revealed Monday at Library Square.
Two rival companies displayed their versions of novel bicycle-sharing systems that create access for short-term use of sleek, easy-to-ride bikes for getting around town.
Both Montreal-based Bixi and B-cycle of Waterloo, Wis., offer systems in which, for a nominal payment, users can check out a bike from a kiosk and locking rack, pedal to the satellite station nearest their destination, drop of the bike and walk away.
"This isn't as much about bike rental, getting a bike for a nice ride around, as it is about transportation," said Bixi representative Braunyno Belo.
Belo's company has sold its idea in a big way in cities such as Montreal, London and Boston. In Bixi's base of Montreal, some 4,000 of their bikes rotate between 400 kiosk stations throughout the city.
To keep up with the heavy use and constant exposure to the elements, the Bixi bicycles are quite unlike most consumer bicycles one might see plying the streets of Salt Lake City. These machines are heavy duty, and the components are uniquely designed, both to withstand heavy usage and to dissuade any would-be hooligans from stripping the bikes for their parts, Belo said.
Both the Bixi and B-cycle bikes allow for a wide range of rider size and skill level, with adjustable seats and simple shifting and braking mechanisms.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker gave both models a spin Monday, and the noted bicycle enthusiast clearly enjoyed the test rides.
The city's bike czar, Becka Roolf, said she's had positive input about a bike-share program from Salt Lake City residents, businesses and transportation groups. For now, budget-challenged city coffers won't be funding any purchases, but Roolf said some exploratory efforts are under way to determine if a bike-share system could work in the capital city.
"There are definitely some areas, downtown, Sugar House, the U., where this might be viable," Roolf said. "Determining function would be our first step, ... seeing how it could fit in our urban fabric and coordinate with our existing transportation infrastructure."
Roolf said other cities have funded bike-sharing programs through third parties or partnerships, and there are already some entities stepping up who "have expressed interest in getting involved."
Looking to other cities that have adopted bike sharing could help inform Salt Lake City's plan, Roolf said.
B-cycle's Lee Jones said that a system launched in Denver in April has grown to 500 bikes and is generating more than 1,100 rides a day.
Both B-cycle and Bixi incorporate smart technology into their systems that allow tracking of bicycles, station capacity and routes to help optimize convenience and efficiency, and both companies use solar panels to power kiosks. Payment options can range from per use to per day, to monthly or annual memberships.
In Denver, prices are $5 a day, $30 a month or $65 for the year, with discounts offered for students and seniors.
The public can test-ride the bikes and see the kiosks from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Utah's Olpin Student Union or 4-8 p.m. at the Daybreak development's Soda Row in South Jordan.
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