Bikeshare Proposal Rides Into Lakeland

squarebikeBicycle sharing — a system of stations with bikes you can borrow for a short commute or a few hours’ recreation — could come to Lakeland as soon as November. 

The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority is riding the bikeshare issue, and Executive Julie Townsend is making presentations to get support from groups such as the City Commission, who she addresses Friday at 9:30, and the Lakeland Economic Development Council.

The plan proposed by LDDA won’t cost taxpayers anything to run, Townsend emphasizes. Financial support would come from a combination of corporate sponsorships and user fees.

Costs for users haven’t been decided yet, but LDDA is studying a plan in Albuquerque, N.M., where a $25 annual fee lets members use the bikes for 90 minutes a day; after that, a $3-per-hour charge kicks in.

For occasional users or tourists, an hourly rate of perhaps $3 an hour would be set, Townsend said. And monthly memberships of something like $10 would be available, too, she said.

Here’s how it works:

  • Riders sign up for the program by downloading a mobile app or registering on the program’s website and entering information, including a credit card.
  • At one of the city’s bike stations, you enter the number of the bike you want into the app. Texting is also available. That gives you a code to unlock a lockbox to get a key for the bike’s lock.
  • Unlock the bike, drop the lock into the basket, close the lockbox and ride away.
  • At the end of the ride, return the bike to a station, lock it and tap “end ride” on the app.

Before spreading the concept to other parts of Lakeland, the LDDA would like to test the concept with a pilot program using 30 bikes in the downtown, Dixieland and midtown areas, Townsend told the LEDC Monday.

They’re urban, walkable areas where bikes can provide fun, healthy transportation to a number of destinations within a mile or so of each other, Townsend said. “The Millennials are asking for it,” she added.

The City Attorney’s Office is reviewing a contract from Cambridge, Mass.-based Zagster, the proposed vendor, Townsend told LEDC members, and a program could be in place as soon as November.

A Zagster promotional video

Zagster charges $9,000 a year for each 5-bike station. In Lakeland, that cost would be borne by sponsors who would get logos on the stations and other promotion. Some sponsors have come forward, and Townsend said she will reveal who they are when she meets with city commissioners Friday.

Zagster provides the bikes, lock stations, maintenance, marketing materials, insurance and the online signup system, according to its website.

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Bikesharing has grown in popularity in the U.S. in recent years and has spread to downtown Tampa and Orlando.

In addition to the health and environmental benefits, the bikeshare program will be one of the “cool” amenities that appeals to members of the “creative class” the city is working to attract, LEDC President Steve Scruggs said Monday.

Here’s the presentation Townsend has been sharing. It combines elements of the Lakeland plan with materials from the bikeshare programs in Cleveland, Ohio, and Albuquerque, N.M.