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Why The Brakes Are Still On Louisville's Bike Share Program

It's still unclear when a bike share program will be rolling out in Louisville.

The plan was put in motion in December 2014, after city transportation officials secured a nearly $1 million federal grant and about $300,000 from Louisville Metro government and the University of Louisville to fund the program.

Initially, the program was expected to launch in mid to late summer 2015. But "red tape" is delaying the process, said Rolf Eisinger, the city's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

"It's just a process," he said. "Boxes to be checked to make sure we're within the public right of way, the [Kentucky] Heritage Council has signed off, we have utility coordination."

He said because the federal grant funding is facilitated by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, local officials must await for state approval before moving forward with the plan.

A spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eisinger said the program will be operated by CycleHop, a Santa Monica, California-based company that runs bike shares in Phoenix, Atlanta and Orlando. The company will help city officials develop a business plan and be responsible for maintaining the rental stations, Eisinger said.

Sponsors for individual stations are still being sought and specific locations for stations have yet to be decided upon, he added.

Eisinger said he hopes the bike share program can launch by summer. But that hope is drawing skepticism from some local bicycling advocates.

Chris Glasser is the president of Bicycling For Louisville. He said he'd be surprised if any bike share program is installed that soon.

He said Louisville's bike share program will likely be confined to areas along the East Market Street corridor, downtown, Old Louisville and the University of Louisville. It's unlikely we will see any bike share stations established in the Highlands area or near the Big Four Bridge, he said.

"I think those are some pretty glaring gaps," Glasser said.

A limited number of stations could make it difficult to attract residents to the program. For that reason, Glasser is pessimistic about its potential success.

He said more east-to-west neighborhood connectivity and establishing stations in more densely populated residential areas — like the Baxter Avenue corridor — could be a boost for the program.

Metro councilman Tom Owen is an avid cyclist. He said he loves the idea of bike share and hopes it can be successful.

Still, Owen, who represents areas in and around the Highlands, said the program would likely work better in areas with the most density.

"Clearly, if it can work, I want to see it work," he said. "I certainly think it makes perfectly good sense."

It's expected to cost $3 for a single use of 30 minutes or less, or $7 for up to 60 minutes of use in a 24-hour period, according city officials. Users can pay with a credit or debit card, or by stopping by an operator office for a one-time use voucher or annual pass — meaning people without a credit card can still access the system.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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