Six locations between Dixieland and Memorial Boulevard have been selected for a pilot bike-sharing program that would let users borrow bicycles for short commutes or  quick recreational rides.

Each of the locations is backed by a sponsor who has agreed to pay $9,000 a year for a station designed to hold five bicycles, members of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority were told this morning.

LDDA Director Julie Townsend said the six projected locations and sponsors are:

  • A location near Frank Lloyd Wright Way and College Avenue sponsored by Florida Southern College.
  • Dixieland Village, sponsored by the Dixieland Community Redevelopment Agency.
  • The Lakeland Center, sponsored by the LDDA
  • The north end of Munn Park, sponsored by CSX.
  • The Rose Street park-and-ride lot near Lake Mirror, sponsored by Citrus Connection.
  • The “Searstown” government complex on Memorial Boulevard, sponsored by the Midtown Community Redevelopment Agency.

A proposed rack near the Polk Museum of Art will be sponsored in part by the museum and the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association, with a third co-sponsor being courted, Townsend said.

In addition, Townsend is working with the city and Lakeland Vision to apply for a grant to fund a station in a northwest Lakeland neighborhood.

The bikes will be available for up to 90 minutes a day as part of an annual membership projected at $25, paid in advance with a credit card. Users would get a code to unlock a bike for each riding session via either a smartphone app, text message or a website.

An additional hourly fee goes into effect for bikes not returned within 90 minutes. “We’re trying not to nickel and dime people above the initial $25 usage fee,” Townsend told LDDA board members.

A contract with vendor Zagster is being negotiated by an assistant city attorney, and Townsend anticipates it coming to the City Commission for approval Nov. 2.

Once approved, “We should be able to implement the program in two weeks, and my goal is to have the bikes in place before Thanksgiving,” Townsend said. “Wouldn’t that be a great activity over the holidays?”

If the pilot is successful, Townsend envisions up to 100 bicycles at stations in places as varied as Southeastern University and the midtown medical corridor.

Massachusetts-based Zagster already works with a handful of cities. It handles maintenance through local bike shops and maintains responsibility for technology, marketing and insurance.

Members of the LDDA board said they support the bike-sharing program as part of the effort to make Lakeland more attractive to the kind of young, creative professionals they want to attract.

Check our earlier bike-sharing story for a video and a presentation explaining the program.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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