Phoenix bike share could bring benefits for commuting students

The city of Phoenix is testing its new bike-sharing program at three locations in downtown Phoenix, including a location across from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The city will be testing the program until late January or early February. (Photo by Alexis Macklin)

The city of Phoenix is testing its new bike-sharing program at three locations in downtown Phoenix, including a location across from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The city will be testing the program until late January or early February. (Photo by Alexis Macklin)

The city of Phoenix is testing a new transportation option around the city that could benefit students.

In December, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton announced a bike share program, which is a system of bikes available for rent at specific locations around the city.

Students may have already begun seeing the bright green bikes parked on Central Avenue across the street from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, one of the three locations being used to test the program, said Matthew Heil with the city’s Street Transportation Department.

There are three sites right now in downtown, and the street demonstration is going to run at least through the end of January,” he said. “If it continues to provide helpful information, we may run it longer into February.”

The other two temporary locations are near Fifth and Van Buren streets, as well as on Second Avenue and Adams Street near Phoenix City Hall.

The city’s plan is to open the project, which is now only available to a small test group, in April and continue expanding over the next few months.

“What we’re going to see here is about 200 of those bikes on the street at the end of April and another 300 by the end of May,” he said.

Heil said locations will be spread along the light rail line, which he said students could use while commuting between campuses.

We definitely do want students to participate in the service,” he said. “Part of what we’re hoping they’ll do is take advantage of its ability to extend the reach of public transit. So if students are coming in from Tempe campus to downtown Phoenix campus, they can hop on a bike and run errands, for example. We really want as wide a user base as possible.

Heil said the testing phase is to work out the kinks associated with such a large program, so that it can operate smoothly when it’s officially unveiled.

“One of the things that is going to be really key that will make sure that it is effective is figuring out the best way to get bikes where they need to be,” he said.

The bright green bikes are state of the art and offer many advanced features compared with other bike shares around the country, said John Romero, director of operations for Grid Bike Share, the company contracted by the city to provide and run the bike share program.

What we are offering is smart bikes,” he said. “It’s a little different from the other established bike share systems throughout the nation, which have smart docks. These bikes have the tracking systems, the electronics the brains, per se on the bikes themselves.”

The bikes carry GPS systems that track usage patterns and distances, Romero said. They even track the calories users burn during their rides and the amount of carbon emissions saved by riding instead of driving.

Romero said users can rent the bikes based on how much they intend to ride, with day passes costing $5, monthly passes costing $30 and annual passes costing $79. Students can get discounted rates of $59 per year.

Jeremy Stapleton, chairman of Phoenix’s Environmental Quality Commission, said programs such as the bike share are important for Phoenix and the greater metro area to stay relevant and attractive to people and businesses.

He said it’s an easy alternative to increase students’ and the general public’s transportation radius without needing to drive, which could benefit the city’s environment.

“If we can reduce the number of cars and reduce the numbers of miles being driven, then we start to bring that air quality burden back into something that’s a little bit more manageable,” he said.

Stapleton said the high level of technology on the bikes also helps show riders the impact riding a bike has on their health and the environment.

“Every mile you pedal, you’re essentially saving a pound of carbon emissions,” he said. “And the Grid bike’s app tracks that for you.”

Following the rollout in Phoenix this spring, Grid Bike Share will be working with ASU as well as the cities of Tempe and Mesa, to continue to expand the program and to make it easy and accessible to the public as well as students as the year continues, Romero said.

 

 

Reach the reporter at mark.remillard@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @markjremillard