By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — The city may finally be getting a bike-share service. Back in 2013, officials nearly finalized plans for a bike-share rental system run by the same company that manages Citi Bike in New York City and Hubway in Boston. All that was missing was a sponsor. One never signed on and plans for public bicycle sharing faded.
The new bike-share system is similar to the original concept but with a model akin to Zipcar, where riders pay a recurring fee as members with the privilege to rent the vehicles for an hourly charge. The membership model differ somewhat from the New York City and Boston bike-share programs that allow anyone with a credit card to rent bikes from the kiosks.
Providence's membership model also allows for one-time rentals with a credit card at three kiosks while members have access to 40 bike stations. Four hundred bikes will be available across the system. Members can reserve and park bikes at a station or kiosk. The locations will be determined after upcoming public meetings led by the program operator, Social Bicycles (SoBi), and the city. Based in Brooklyn, N.Y., SoBi has about 40 bike-share operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. About 10 of the systems are based at universities.
Instead of traditional pedal-powered bicycles, SoBi will offer electric bikes, or e-bikes, through a division called JUMP. The battery-powered bicycles are referred to as electric-assist, meaning they augment a rider’s pedaling power, making it easier to climb hills. They can reach a top speed of nearly 20 mph. So far, JUMP operates in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. JUMP advertises itself as cheaper than most modes of public transportation and faster than driving in city traffic.
Members reserve bikes through an app on their cell phone or computer and are charged a fee for each half-hour with the bike. In D.C., members pay $2 for 30 minutes of renting. The Providence program will have a monthly fee of $20. The bikes can be returned at any kiosk, allowing for one-way trips.
Reduced membership fees will be offered for households with incomes at or below the 80 percent income limit. The fees for the reduced membership program will be set at $20 a year for 60 minutes of free usage per day. Options are being explored for payment without credit cards.
The JUMP bike will be permitted on racks attached to buses run by the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA).
“Like other public transit authorities across the country, RIPTA supports travel options that give people an alternative to using their cars,” said Barbara Polichetti, director of public affairs at RIPTA. “Biking can be a great way to commute to work, or navigate the city, and RIPTA can help.”
The Providence program is scheduled to launch this summer.