Pro Bike Convention Pedals into Pittsburgh

Sep 9, 2014

Thousands of bike enthusiasts from around the country have pedaled their way into Pittsburgh – or most likely travelled by other means – for the 18th annual Pro Bike Pro Walk Pro Place Conference.

Tuesday’s discussion focused on Bike Share programs, which provide public bicycles for people to rent and have been implemented in cities all over the world.

Jacob Mason, the transport research and evaluation manager from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, presented data he gathered while researching what he considers “successful” systems.

“Larger systems tended to have better use of their bikes, so each bike got used a little bit more, more percentage of the population tended to use the bikes and the costs of each trip went down,” Mason said.

He said bike sharing has become popular in big cities such as New York and Mexico City, but they have also been successful in less populous cities such as Barcelona.

Pittsburgh’s bike share program was scheduled to debut this spring, but it was pushed back until next year because the initial plan called for older technology.  The manufacturer that won Pittsburgh’s bid uses newer technology,  with the user interface located on the bike itself, instead of on the bike docking station.

Ryan Rzepecki, CEO and founder of Social Bikes, also spoke at the conference.  His company offers the newer, less expensive technology to cities and colleges wishing to start bike share programs.

“The previous model of the docking stations and kiosks ... the capital cost is usually around $5,000 per bike,” Rzepecki said. “With our system, we’re about half that when you’re comparing it apples to apples – meaning bikes, racks and kiosks.”

Pittsburgh plans to start with 500 bikes, but Rzepecki said the city has the potential to build a robust program.

“I think eventually Pittsburgh could support several thousand bikes. There’s a very strong university community here, obviously a large downtown population as well,” he said.

Nicole Freedman, director of bike programs for Boston, said bike sharing also helps people with low income.

“Our goal is that it serves a cross section of the city of Boston population,” She said. “Residents, both commuters and people that work in the city and as well as tourists.”