ST. GEORGE — Washington City officials are considering the possibility of having automatic electronic bicycle rentals in their city.
Last week, the Washington City Council considered an agreement between the city and Easy Rider Rentals, a local e-bike rental company seeking to lease a spot at the Sullivan Soccer Park where a bank of e-bike lockers could be placed.
The Sullivan Park site, which would be on a preexisting cement pad by the Virgin River trail running along side the park, would be leased for 18 months and potentially serve as a springboard for additional locations throughout the city.
“It would allow residents and visitors to our area access to e-bikes,” Kole Staheli, assistant leisure services director for the city, told the City Council last Wednesday as he went over aspects of the proposed agreement.
While similar to the bicycle and e-scooter rentals in neighboring St. George, the e-bikes offered through Easy Rider Rentals are more for recreational use, Staheli said. The e-bikes hold a charge of about four hours and have a range of 20-40 miles depending on how they’re used.
“It really is a recreational service as much as anything,” he said. “Yes, it can be used by our local community members as well, but if a family is visiting our community and is looking for an activity, it’s nice if they could drive to that location, park their vehicle and go ride for three or four hours.”
Unlike the many e-scooters that can be found left scattered across St. George awaiting a pick-up and recharge, the Easy Rider e-bikes have to be returned to the storage locker once no longer in use.
As a part of the agreement, Easy Rider Rentals would assume full liability for the e-bikes’ use, as well as their maintenance and cleaning. According to the company’s proposal to the city, it will be a $50,000 investment on the company’s part to set up a bank of five lockers – two e-bikes per locker – at the proposed Sullivan Park location.
“We feel Sullivan Park is the most logical place to start,” Staheli said.
While the idea of the e-bike rentals appeared to be well-received by the council, there were questions of locker placement and aesthetics.
“I’m worried about it looking trashy,” Councilman Craig Coats said. “We’re not a storage unit; we’re a park.”
Tom Lund, one of Easy Rider’s owners, said they planned to match the look of the lockers and signage to the aesthetic of the park as best as possible. Under the agreement, any signage would have to be approved by the city beforehand as well.
Questions over potential future locker sites were also asked, to which Staheli said other spots were under consideration. However, they wanted to see how the Sullivan Park location did before any further expansion was implemented.
The location in Sullivan Park would be Easy Rider’s second site since the company’s formation in 2019. The first site was in the vacation rental section of the Ledges community of St. George, a location which has been “a hit,” according to the proposal given to the city.
“Month after month,” the proposal states, “we attract hundreds of customers to the Ledges from different areas of Washington and St George.”
With their initial success in the Ledges, Easy Riders’ owners approached Washington City with their proposal for expansion.
“This is an experimental thing,” Lund said. “We’ve been experimenting up at the Ledges. It’s working well, now we’d like to try it in this framework.”
As to how the rental service works, Lund said people go online to Easy Rider Rentals where they are able to book a time and how many bikes they want to use. After signing a waiver, the website generates a code the e-bike renters are able to take to the lockers to extract the bikes for use.
“It’s very easy, very automated,” Lund said.
Each of the e-bikes is also outfitted with a GPS-tracking system so they can be retrieved if not returned to the locker. However, Lund said most of his customers are “responsive” and have returned the bikes on time.
When asked about how the bikes were charged, Lund added that the drained batteries are swapped out at the end of the day with fresh ones. From there, the drained batteries are taken to a central location to be be recharged, then swapped out again.
The City Council ultimately voted to table the approval of the agreement with Easy Rider Rentals in favor of getting additional information on proposed future locker locations and aesthetics to be address in a future council meeting.
“I suspect we’re going to see a lot of growing pains as we get used to some of these new modes of transportation,” Councilman Doug Ward said. “I don’t think we should throw them out, but I think we should be aware and address them.”
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