Providence Makes Jump to Electric Bikes, Bike Sharing

Two health-care companies will sponsor the Providence bike-share program. Lifespan CEO Timothy Babineau, right, and Tufts Health Plan CEO Tom Croswell, second from right, joined Mayor Jorge Elorza, left, and RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian at the July 19 announcement. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Two health-care companies will sponsor the Providence bike-share program. Lifespan CEO Timothy Babineau, right, and Tufts Health Plan CEO Tom Croswell, second from right, joined Mayor Jorge Elorza, left, and RIPTA CEO Scott Avedisian at the July 19 announcement. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — There is no date yet when Providence bike sharing will launch, but the program notched significant milestones during a recent press event.

Lifespan and Tufts Health Plan are the all-important sponsors. Their decals will adorn some 400 bikes that will be parked across the city.

The city started planning for a bike-share system in 2009, but the project has been in limbo since 2013 because of a lack of sponsors.

“We’ve tried to get it up and going a few times,” said Martina Haggerty, special projects director for the city’s Department of Planning and Development.

JUMP bikes of New York City will own and operate the bike-share system. The company, owned by Uber, has systems in Austin, Chicago, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Washington D.C. Uber acquired JUMP Bikes in April for an undisclosed amount.

Haggerty said bike sharing will launch later this summer, but no date has been announced. The locations of more than 40 docking stations across the city for rentals will be released in August.

The bicycles are fire-engine red, pedal-and-battery-powered e-bikes. Under battery power the hybrid bikes have a top speed of nearly 25 mph.

The bikes can be rented through a one-time payment, monthly paid membership, or a reduced-rate membership for qualified residents. One-time rides cost $2 for 30 minutes. A monthly membership cost $20 and includes 60 minutes of ride time daily. The reduced-cost program is $5 for the first year.

Rentals can be done through a JUMP app or the Uber app, but a smartphone isn't needed. Subscribers can enter a PIN number on a keypad fixed to the back of the bike. Cash payments will also be accepted at special locations in the city.

Haggerty said bike sharing attracts economic development. By making e-bikes convenient and accessible to everyone, they improve the quality of life for residents, allowing them to move easier through neighborhoods and up steep hills, she added.

The bikes are dockless, meaning they don’t have to be returned to a designated bike rack or kiosk. Each bike includes a lock so that the bike can be secured to a fixed object like a public bike rack or one of the designated docking stations.

No municipal money will be used to run the program. JUMP bikes wouldn't say how much it costs to operate the program, but a $400,000 federal grant will help launch the service. Back in 2013, the city needed $800,000 to launch the program and the estimated cost to run the program was $500,000 annually.

JUMP will hire up to six workers to manage the service, repair bicycles, and run a van used to redistribute the e-bikes around the city. The company will operate out of a warehouse space.

Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design have been involved with planing for the program. Both campuses are expected to have docking stations for student use.

Mayor Jorge Elorza, who regularly commutes to work by bicycle, praised the program, saying it's part of a movement for people to start “ditching their cars.”

“We all live in cities that were frankly designed for cars,” Elorza said. “And we’re at a moment right now where we’re rethinking our cities to make sure they are designed for people.”

Elorza said the program will be available to low-income residents.