Summit County considers launching bike sharing program

Imagine being able to ride a bike all the way from Jeremy Ranch into Park City without really having to pedal. According to Caroline Ferris, Summit County regional transportation director, the county is currently looking for a contractor to administer a two-year long pilot program that will allow people to rent traditional and electric bicycles and return them to stations within a connected system.

"We have asked contractors to come in and just drop the whole system in. We are asking them to tell us where you put the stations, how many bikes you need and if we can do it by summer," Ferris said. "We still don’t know if anyone is even going to respond or if it is even doable, but we put the RFQ (request for qualifications) out there and are going to see what vendors say about it."

Ferris is estimating placing up to 10 stations, with about 15 bikes per station, between Park City and the Snyderville Basin. She added that locations could include sites along State Road 224 near Park City Mountain Resort, Kimball Junction, the Tanger Outlet Center, Jeremy Ranch and Pinebrook.

As per the RFQ, the system should allow for bicycles to be accessed by anyone from self-service terminals or kiosks. The county wants the ability to offer registration and payment for service online or through a smart phone with the ability to subscribe on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis.

The electric bicycles that are being considered travel up to 20 miles per hour and are battery operated, Ferris said, adding that because of the area’s topography "we wanted people of all abilities to be able to use them." Ferris said she recently conducted an informal survey surrounding the use of ebikes and received more than 300 responses.

"When the bike senses you are struggling or working you have the option to kick on the power," Ferris said. "We just want to be able to break down some of the barriers people have about riding an ebike. We just want to be able to give people as many options as possible."

At this point, the county does not have money set aside to fund the program and is "really waiting to see what it is going to cost first," Ferris said.

"There are a lot of grants that can be used and we are part of a larger grant application right now through the Federal Transit Administration that is in partnership with Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and a bunch of other stakeholders with the idea that we will eventually be part of a bike-share system," Ferris said.

Once the system is in place, Ferris said businesses and restaurants in the area may also want to buy into the program.

"Tanger Outlet has been very interested in everything we have been doing and biking is just a total economic boon," Ferris said. "Once our retail establishments and restaurants see that, I know they will be more than willing to contribute. There are numerous studies that show that profits go up exponentially when there is biking near the restaurant front."

Roger Armstrong, Summit County Council chair, said they have been discussing how to mitigate traffic along the major corridors the bike-sharing program was offered as "low-hanging fruit."

"It wouldn’t have to be a great infrastructure-type-of-program," Armstrong said. "My vision of it is it would be something like a beta test and we would just start with some bikes to see whether people will use them.

"There is not a single swing of the bat that we will make that will erase traffic on the roads, but if we keep chopping away at we may be able to make a dent," he added.

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