By Jared Eborn
Salt Lake City has long held a reputation as one of the West’s most-bikeable cities. That’s about to change, however, as several organizations are teaming up to turn Utah’s capitol city into a bike-friendly like few others in the country.
A new bike share program is set to launch, providing bikes which downtown Salt Lake City workers, residents and visitors can use to navigate the city’s streets on two wheels – and make the city a healthier, cleaner, less congested place in the process.
“Bike Share represents another great transit option for Salt Lake City residents and visitors and one that has a fabulous, and green, fun factor,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker in a press release. “As our central business district continues to grow and prosper, this really provides an efficient and cost-effective short-trip option that is accessible to all riders, regardless of skill level.”
The bike share program is different from what many might anticipate. Rather than random clunker bikes parked around town for people to use – or misuse – bike share is more of a membership club for urban cyclists.
According to the press release, “Bike share systems are not rentals. Instead the program works through membership that ranges from $5 for 24-hour access to $75 for a year. The network will include a minimum of 10 stations and 100 bicycles.”
Members are able to check out a quality bicycle much like they would a book from a library.
“Bike share allows a member to take any bike from any station, as many times as you want, for 30 minutes at a time for no additional charge. The farthest distance between any two stations is well under a 30 minute trip,” the press release said. “An added benefit is that once the bike is docked at the station, the user is no longer responsible for it: eliminating the need to remember a lock or worry about maintenance.”
Not only is Salt Lake City’s government getting behind the program, a handful of businesses are giving the new bike share system a big boost in the budget.
SelectHealth, Rio Tinto (Kennecott Utah Copper), Fidelity Investments, Backcountry.com and Visit Salt Lake have kicked in funds to get the project rolling.
”SelectHealth is committed to improving the health of our members and the communities we serve,” said Patricia Richards, SelectHealth president and CEO. “We’re proud to be part of a program that supports healthy activities and makes exercise fun. Small changes can add up to big benefits in terms of personal health and fitness, as well as improving the environment for everyone. Bike Share makes it easy to hop on a bike rather than drive.”
The official launch for the program is expected to happen in March of 2013 after custom bikes are orders and bike docks installed.
Aside from the benefits of getting around time quickly and quietly, there are the plentiful health benefits associated with cycling activities.
“We wanted to be a part of the Bike Share program because of its obvious ties to healthy lifestyles. A simple decision like choosing to ride a bike instead of driving a car can have huge health benefits,” SelectHealth media relations spokesman Spencer Sutherland said. “In Denver, bike share members lost a total of 1,800 pounds in just the first 8 months of the program. On an individual level, studies have shown that a 15-minute bike ride to and from work each day can burn 11 pounds of fat in a year. We would love to see those type of results in Salt Lake City.”
The quick-trip nature of the Bike Share program should be a hit with the urban business district that doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of driving – and parking – on short trips across town.
“We also love that the program allows people to just grab a bike and go. You don’t have to change your clothes, remember a bike lock, or even carry change in your pocket,” Sutherland said. “It’s a simple and fun way to get your daily exercise while reducing traffic and pollution.”
The Bike Share bicycles won’t be your typical fixed-gear rides often seen downtown. Instead, the bikes will be custom built to cater to cyclists of every skill level and style of dress.
“Green Bikes feature chain guards and fenders to keep dresses and business wear clean, allowing the system to be used for a wide range of potential travelers,” the press release said. “Sustainable and healthy lifestyle choices, as well as convenient and cost-effective transportation solutions, mean bicycle travel is very popular in Salt Lake.”
Helmets for Bike Share members will be provided by Intermountain Healthcare, the press release said.
“We are proud to sponsor the SLC Bike Share program because it aligns with our commitment to sustainable development,” said Kelly Sanders, president and CEO, Kennecott Utah Copper. “Cleaning-up air quality in the Salt Lake Valley is important. The SLC Bike share program is an opportunity for us to partner with the community to improve air quality.”