Electric bike share program winds down for the season
Alex Natt considers himself one of the first people to sign up for Summit County’s electric bike share program last year. He wanted to support the program, viewing it as a fun transportation alternative for residents and tourists.
Natt has only ridden the e-bikes a couple of times since then. He said there isn’t a station near his home in Snyder’s Mill, and he’s been unable to rent them on several different occasions.
“This summer my wife and I tried a number of times to access bikes at the transit center and in town,” he said. “We’ve had zero luck. I was using the app and called customer service. We ultimately bailed and used the bus.”
Natt said he still wants to support the program despite his experiences with it and knows people enjoy riding them, including tourists.
Summit County and Park City partnered together last summer to introduce the program, the nation’s first all-electric bike-share and expanded it in 2018. While officials have deemed the program a huge success in its first two seasons of operation, public opinion varies. Some say they love the e-bikes. But, others have highlighted areas where it could be improved. They suggested reducing the speed the bikes can travel, regulating underage use and encouraging users to exhibit proper trail etiquette.
Dennis Hanlon said in an online post he supports any program that allows people to get outside and exercise. He said he even supports the e-bikes being used on mountain trails.
“Why not? Is it the same philosophy of backcountry skiers. ‘No lifts, earn your turns’?” he said. “Not everyone has the strength to pedal up the mountain, so if an e-bike allows someone to enjoy the mountains I am all for it. I hike the mountain trails and have no problem sharing.”
Caroline Rodriguez, Summit County’s transportation planning director, said efforts were made over the summer to continue to improve the program and address the concerns as they came up.
“I think things went excellent (this season),” she said. “Ridership was about three times as much and a lot of the complaints we had during the first year we didn’t see them as much.”
The e-bike program was extremely popular when it was first introduced to the community last summer, which often led to a shortage of available bikes and problems with the user application, so an additional 40 bikes were added to the nine kiosk stations throughout Park City and Summit County.
But, Rodriguez admitted the program still had a few kinks. She mentioned issues with the kiosk software and the need to have more stations. She has said additional stations will likely be established starting next year at the Snyderville Basin Recreation Fieldhouse, in the Silver Springs and Trailside neighborhoods, City Park, and, eventually, at the Ecker Hill and Jeremy Ranch park-and-ride lots.
“It would be nice to have some stations a little more spread out and we are doing that,” she said. “We are adding eight additional grant-funded stations.”
As more stations and bikes are added, Rodriguez said officials will have to consider how to make the transportation and trail network work effectively for everyone, including e-bike users. Newpark residents complained about the program this season and the high-volume of users on those trails.
“This is an interesting conflict to complain about high usage,” she said. “People are doing what we asked them to do. We asked them to get out of the car at the Junction or before and use our awesome trail network to get into town. When those trails were put in, e-bikes were not a thing. It seems like trails are being abused, but that is not the case. Everyone is using them. This is a very difficult conversation to have with people. How do we accommodate everyone?”
Rodriguez said the program will continue to become more robust as more commercial entities and developments choose to participate and provide stations.
“We are upgrading and fixing things that work marginally well so they will work excellent,” she said. “I just appreciate everyone using the bikes and talking about the bikes. I even appreciate when people complain because that helps me to address those issues that I wasn’t aware of.”
The bikes will be removed from the stations within Park City beginning next week, while the bikes at stations throughout the Snyderville Basin will still be available as long as the weather permits it.
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Planning Commissioners said the Promontory decision would have to wait until the County Council decides a related case, as early as August.