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Louisville's Public Bike Share Could Roll Into City By Summer

bike share

After multiple delays, it seems Louisville may soon have a bike share available to residents and tourists in and around the downtown area.

The wheels have been in motion for such a program since late 2014, but "red tape" kept the brakes on an official rollout, said Rolf Eisinger, the city's bike and pedestrian coordinator.

In recent weeks, however, photos and videos posted to social media show city contractors and council members test-riding the bikes -- a sign the shareable rides could be available soon.

Eisinger said the bike share program could be ready by summer.

"We're very excited," he said.

There'll likely be some 300 bikes available at some 30 stations across the downtown area -- stretching from Butchertown to the eastern edge of Russell and south to the University of Louisville campus, according to a list of potential station locations on the city's website.

Most of the bikes would be stationed in the downtown area, where some 70,000 people are estimated to work, according to the city's bike share business plan.

Eisinger said it's possible some stations would be erected further west into Russell to utilize existing bike lanes stretching down Muhammad Ali Boulevard to the African-American Heritage Center at 18th Street.

Easy Does It

The concept is simple: Riders pay a fee to check out a bike for an allotted time and can return the bike to another station at or near their destination. It's not meant as a "bike rental" for lengthy excursions, Eisinger said, but rather a means to get from one point to another sans vehicle.

"It speaks to our city being more progressive with our transportation options," he said.

Humana currently operates a similar program, but use is limited to the company's employees. This bike share program, Eisinger said, is open to anyone.

Bike share giant PBSC Urban Solutions will provide the bikes and infrastructure, Eisinger said. The Montreal-based company provides bike share infrastructure in 16 cities around the world, including Chicago, Chattanooga and New York.

A separate company, Cyclehop, will operate the system, Eisinger said. The California-based company will maintain the infrastructure and secure sponsorships to fund the longevity of the bike share program.

Louisville officials are banking on a public-private partnership to pay for the program, in addition to a $1.5 million federal grant with a 20 percent local match, Eisinger said. Sponsorships, he stressed, are critical for the program's upkeep and longevity.

The cost of actually checking out a bike is proposed to be $7.50 a day, according to the city's bike share business plan. Monthly and annual passes are proposed for $15 and $99, respectively, in the plan. Discounts could be offered for students and poorer residents.

Bike share programs have boomed in recent years. There are more than 1,000 cities operating or planning a bike share program, according to the city's plan. And nearby cities of Nashville, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Indianapolis have their own programs.

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.