Summit Bike Share kicks off the season with new COVID protocols, management practices

Summit Bike Share will close out its sixth season on Thursday, Oct. 26. The annual survey is now open and officials hope community feedback will guide the future of the program.
Park Record file photo by Tanzi Propst

Riders are zipping around the Park City area on green and gray e-bikes once again after the Summit County Bike Share kicked off its season Monday, with riders already logging nearly 2,000 miles and 600 rides.

Caroline Rodriguez, who oversees the program for Summit County, said there were around 80 bikes in place Monday at 6 a.m. and the full fleet of 190 bikes should be in docking stations by the middle of the second week of June.

“It’s a process getting the bikes out — I would say to have your full fleet out in the first two weeks (is an accomplishment),” Rodriguez said. “All the bikes were ready to go before we opened. It was excellent, I was so pleased.”

Last year, the program struggled with maintenance issues, only had about 80 bikes on the road in September and was plagued by rider complaints of bikes in disrepair or short supply.

But Rodriguez said significant changes have been made to the program, both to respond to those issues and to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said each kiosk and each bike would be sanitized at least daily, but recommended riders bring their own sanitization materials to clean the “high-touch” points before they take the bikes out, including the handlebars, saddle and basket.

“Bring your sanitizer wipes, helmet and mask,” she advised.

The Bike Share crews that normally rebalance the system by moving bikes from one station to another are now performing sanitization work on their rounds, as well.

“Our staff is on the street all day — sanitizing kiosks all day, all touch points, following the CDC guidelines,” she said.

She said the leadership team considered supplying sanitizing materials at each kiosk but it was deemed too costly.

“Wipes — that’s where the expense gets in,” she said. “I think any business owner can attest that when you put them out, they’re gone in an hour.”

A monthly pass for the Bike Share costs $32.15 for unlimited 45-minute rides, while a 30-minute ride costs $3 with a per-ride pass and $0.15 per minute after that. An annual pass for Summit County residents and employees costs $96.44 for unlimited 90-minute rides. Cost for the annual and monthly passes have increased about 8% over last year.

The way the system works is the contract-holder, Montreal-based Bewegen, receives all the revenue from riders and pays for logistical support, like moving bikes around and maintaining the fleet.

In addition to COVID-related protocols, Rodriguez said Bewegen has made significant changes to avoid some of the issues that plagued the program last year as it saw a steep drop-off in rides from nearly 40,000 in 2018 to about 15,000 last year.

The entire fleet of bikes was in good condition at the start of the season, Rodriguez said, something that wasn’t the case last year. And the accompanying app has been updated and includes the number of bikes parked at a particular station, useful for people trying to find a bike or groups trying to arrange a ride.

Last year, Rodriguez said she had been consistently told the fleet was in good shape until discovering in the spring no maintenance or repair work had been done over the winter.

On opening day last year, only about 60 bikes were ready to go.

Other factors impacted last year’s numbers, officials said, like a weather-shortened season and trouble hiring and retaining mechanics. Last fall, the CEO of Bewegen flew in to Summit County to deliver a report to the County Council about the improvements that would be made.

This year, Rodriguez said she said she received a weekly written report from the project manager detailing the status of the program; that BWG — the American field operations arm of Bewegen — hired a local project manager based in Salt Lake City to oversee the Summit County program; and that the mechanics they hired last season stayed over the winter.

And while she said the program didn’t have specific ridership goals because of the pandemic, Rodriguez said they hope to continue offering an alternative to vehicle trips while keeping people safe.

Despite a strong start, there have been some hiccups already this year, including a counterfeit app and the most popular checkout and return station, which is at Newpark Plaza, being knocked out for the first month or so of the season because of nearby construction. There are two other kiosks at Kimball Junction: one at the Basin Recreation Fieldhouse and one at the Kimball Junction transit center across S.R. 224.

Rodriguez advises those who want to use the system to download the “Official Summit Bike Share” app, which is made by Bewegen. A recent check of the Apple App Store did not show another option. Though the app may say there are zero available bikes at a kiosk, that does not include the Summit Bike Share e-bikes. The number of e-bikes that are available is listed above the title “PEDELEC bikes.”

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