Photo courtesy of SLC Bike Share
It started as a city project several years ago, when Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker noticed the successful bike share programs of Europe, and in 2010, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis.
Ben Bolte, who worked for the city government, was tasked with researching those programs and how one could be set up in SLC. In the end, the city decided it would be better managed elsewhere and turned the project over to Downtown Alliance. “And I came with it,” Bolte says.
Now, SLC Bike Share (and Bolte who stuck with the project from day one) has hit a milestone. This week, docking stations, where bikes will be kept for riders, were unveiled across the city.
Starting April 8, locals and visitors to the city can use purchased SLC Bike Share membership cards, which will give them access to the bikes at the docking stations. “All you have to do is take your membership card and tap it to the dock—you don’t even have to take it out of your wallet,” Bolte says. “A green light comes on, and you just pull the bike out.”
Unlike bike rentals, the bikes are only used for short trips across town to another docking station. There will be 10 altogether—11 later this summer. Docking stations, themselves, are solar powered and include a pay station and a system map.
Key Bank station near Temple Sqaure. Photo courtesy of SLC Bike Share.
Each bike can be taken for 30 minutes, and once you return a bike, you can take another for 30 minutes. There’s no limit on bikes per day. If a bike is out longer than 30 minutes, the rider is charged a small fee. No two stations are more than 15 to 20 minutes apart.
“Each station has space for about 13 bikes,” Bolte says. “But we want to leave almost half of the docks empty, so people riding to a specific station will be able to dock a bike.”
After the few months of the program, you might notice more or less bikes at each station, depending on which are used most.
Bikes have a basket to carry a briefcase or take-out meal, front and rear LED lights and a GPS tracking system that allows riders to track their distance and calories burned online.
Overall, the project is going to cost about $1 million to get running—one third of the required funds has come from the city and the remaining two-thirds from private sponsors.
Squatters station. Photo courtesy of SLC Bike Share.
Along with the bikes, docking stations, GPS tracking technology, maintenance and more, a staff will move bikes from station to station, making sure they’re available where people are expected to pick them up most often at different times of day.
But with all that’s involved, one of the toughest parts for Bolte has been finding out how to present the sponsors and the right balance of logos on bikes. “You’re trying to create an environment where potential sponsors feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, but we don’t want it to look like a NASCAR bike,” Bolte says. “You have to find this middle ground.”
Of course, the overall goal of the entire program is to eliminate unnecessary car trips. “Air quality is such a big thing in Utah right now," Bolte says. “We think in the first year alone, we will eliminate driving by 77 thousand miles.”
It’s $5 for a one-day membership, $15 for a week and $75 for a year. Salt Lake City employees and employees of sponsors and 501 c3 non-profits get 25 percent off. Membership cards can also be used in other cities with similar bike share programs. Annual membership earns you a free helmet, which can be picked up at Salt Lake City Bicycle Company or UTA’s Intermodal Hub.
“Everybody loves it,” Bolte says. “It’s such a cool, fun new thing.”
For info on bike share events, the big ribbon cutting, the mobile app and a list of docking stations and cities you can use your membership or to find out how to get a membership, visit greenbikeslc.org.