Five companies approach city to start bike sharing program

Posted at 3:34 PM, Dec 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-08 20:52:13-05

At least five companies have approached the City of Waco expressing their interest to start a bike sharing program in Waco.  

City Center Waco set up a working group formed by city staff, local bike advocates and members of the public improvement district to look at the proposals.

The city is considering two different models for bike sharing programs: one would have stations where users would rent and return the bikes and the other one, known as a dockless system, allows users to return it to different locations.

According to City of Waco Planner Chelsea Phlegar, a bike sharing program could be a nice addition to the momentum the city is currently experiencing.

“We are trying to have a healthier and more livable city. I think it would be a really good compliment to what we already invested in,” Phlegar said.

The companies that have proposed bike sharing programs in Waco, include Zagster, LimeBike, Ofo, Spin and Gotcha, according to Phlegar.

Waco Bicycle Club President Trent Dougherty who is part of the working group said being approached by multiple companies is a good sign.

"It shows that Waco has gotten visibility as a bike friendly city and that's good right off the bat,” Dougherty said. “I think this will encourage people to bike. I think it will encourage in the end more people to buy bikes, and develop a bike habit and that will make them happier and healthier."

Dougherty said the group has been discussing the impact of the proposed bike sharing program for local businesses. He said in some cases mechanics from local bike shops could service those bikes.  

“We need to do it in a way that doesn't take money away from local bike shops. [Bicycle World] is where I come for my bicycle needs and I don't think they should have to pay for something that is going to take business away from them,” Dougherty said .

According to Doughterty, there are several aspects to consider about the two models.

“The advantage of the docking program is that there is greater visibility. Possibly, greater safety for the bikes, that's debatable. The downside is that they are much more expensive to install,” Dougherty said.

Phlegar said the docking program, which has designated stations, often requires capital investment from the city or sponsors.

She added dockless bikes are less likely to require that investment but there are questions remaining about the parking.

"Someone could leave it in the middle of the sidewalk, they could block an ADA ramp. They could block some parking spaces. These are some big questions that we have been thinking about,” Phlegar said.

The working group has developed some of those questions for companies.

On Friday, Central Texas News Now reached out to the five companies interested in starting bike sharing programs in Waco.

According to Zagter’s Communications Manager Jon Terbush, their nationwide dockless service called Pace gives the ability for riders to star and end rides at public racks.

He added about other features associated with the bikes.

“Our dockless bikes are unique in that they lock to fixed objects --not just themselves -- to ensure safe, orderly parking that doesn’t obstruct public right of way,” Terbush said.

Director of Mobility Strategy for the Gotcha Group Andy Boenau stated via email, the company gives cities the flexibility to use standard bike racks or virtual stations to park bikes or go completely dockless.

“Cities are experiencing challenges with dockless, often because people can't predict where bikes will be available. Creating hubs (virtually or with racks) is one way to improve access in underserved neighborhoods. We're excited about providing equitable mobility as a service to communities like Waco,” Boenau said.

Mary Caroline Pruitt with LimeBike said the company hopes to bring their bikes to Waco in order for more people to experience dockless bikeshare.

“LimeBike would be a perfect fit for the Waco community with its many vibrant parks and bustling schools like Baylor University and McLennan Community College,” Pruitt said in a statement.

Downtown Waco is one of the areas considered for the bikeshare program. The working group is expected to present recommendations to city management next spring. 

Copyright 2017 KXXV. All rights reserved.