ST. GEORGE — As bicycling becomes more popular as a means of transportation, city officials are considering implementing a bike-sharing system in St. George.
The bike-share concept was presented to the St. George City Council by Assistant to the City Manager Marc Mortensen in a public meeting Thursday evening.
Bike sharing typically includes several stations equipped with five to 10 bicycles set up throughout the city. The bikes are then rented in varying time increments and can be dropped off at any other station.
“It’s a relatively new concept in the United States and really took off in 2010, and over the last seven years it’s grown exponentially,” Mortensen said. “It’s exploding, and that’s not overstated.”
A bike-share program in St. George would initially help support the tourism industry with potential to grow into something larger as students and young people opt for biking.
“You’ve got the younger sect that, really, they don’t want to drive … and they’d much rather bike somewhere,” Pam Palermo, president and CEO of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, said.
How it works
Mortensen said he researched a number of bike-share companies, eventually pinpointing “smart bike” company Zagster as an ideal fit for St. George in terms of cost, ease of access and functionality.
Zagster works through a smartphone app that locates the user by GPS and lists nearby bike stations. The entire rental process works through the lightweight, easy-to-use app.
Bikes weigh around 40 pounds and are equipped with eight gears, bells, adjustable seats, baskets and lights for nighttime riding.
“Anyone should be able to get on this bike and ride it,” Mortensen said.
A bike can also be locked up at any stops between stations with a pre-installed lock attached to the bike.
Fee structures are established by the owner of the bike-share operator, and payments can be designed to be by the hour or through monthly or yearly memberships. Promotions offering free rides may also be offered to help bring attention to the system.
Paying for the system
At 50 bikes across 10 stations, the program would cost approximately $90,000 per year, substantially cheaper than similar programs in other cities, Mortensen said, such as one in Salt Lake City running in the millions.
Regular bicycle maintenance is included in the cost and is managed by Zagster through recruiting local bike shops to conduct repairs and biweekly checks on the stations.
Most of the cost would be made up through sponsorships with each $9,000-per-year station paid for by private or public entities.
So far, Intermountain Healthcare, Dixie State University and the Washington County Tourism Office have each indicated interest in sponsoring two stations a piece.
“They would love to sponsor a bike-share program because it fits their mission of health,” Mortensen said of Intermountain Healthcare, the owner and operator of Dixie Regional Medical Center.
Dixie State University also expressed enthusiasm, Mortensen said, explaining that the school previously tried to run its own bike-share program that proved prohibitively expensive.
Other potential partnerships may include restaurants, hotels, car dealerships and advocacy groups.
Station signs and bikes may be painted with sponsor logos.
“The hope is that your sponsors will see the value in this, if nothing else, an advertising expense but – maybe if there is something else – wellness and activity,” St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.
Pike also suggested that the city contribute as a sponsor of one station but added that the idea shouldn’t be considered for approval until sponsorship is locked in through written agreements for the remaining stations.
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