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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Bike sharing program in Tampa nearing rollout

TAMPA — The two companies putting together Tampa’s new bike-share program will roll out the venture’s first details Tuesday morning with the help of Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Buckhorn will join officials from CycleHop LLC and Social Bicycles at 8:45 a.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to reveal details about the program’s name, branding and some of the locations where bikes will be stored. Those areas are expected to be in downtown, Ybor City and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Organizers say the program will accept its first paying customers in a few more months, probably in April.

Tampa Bike Share marketing director Eric Trull said last month that the company is still waiting for delivery of its heavy-duty bikes, now under construction in Taiwan.

The bikes, designed by Social Bicycling, have a driveshaft instead of a chain. That makes them friendlier to well-dressed commuters and more resistant to vandals, the designers have said.

Unlike bike share programs in Washington, D.C., and New York City, Tampa’s system will combine “smart” bikes with “dumb” stations.

In other cities, the bikes are secured to a high-tech kiosk that dispenses them with a swipe of a card. Tampa’s bikes will have the electronics built into them, letting the program use standard bike racks that take up less space on sidewalks and in parking lots, Trull said.

Trull said last month that bike share organizers have secured four locations in parking lots owned by two different businesses in downtown. The racks will take up one or two parking spaces. A single 15-foot-long rack holding six bikes takes up the space of one parking stall.

The city has to approve the arrangements, which could affect the businesses’ deals with the city regarding how much parking they provide.

Bike share users can buy a yearly subscription to the system or pay as they go.

The city has agreed to provide room on its sidewalks for the project, but not direct investment.

Buckhorn has said he backs the bike share project as a way to make the city’s urban core more accessible and friendlier to cyclists.

Karen Kress, transportation director for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, said she welcomes the bike-share program.

“Through the Tampa BayCycle campaign, we will help market the program and offer free bike safety classes with helmet giveaways,” Kress said. “We are thrilled that the bike share program is supporting our downtown bike shop, City Bike Tampa, to help with maintenance of the bikes.”

The Tampa region frequently ranks among the worst in the country for pedestrian and cyclist traffic fatalities. In 2012, 28 cyclists were involved in fatal crashes in the Tampa region, half of them in Hillsborough County, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Three of those 14 were in the city of Tampa.

Buckhorn has said putting more bikes on the roads will reduce crashes rather than increase them by making bikes more visible to drivers.

The bike share organizers plan to sell advertising on the baskets of their bikes along with other sponsorships within the system.

Trull said the bike share program still hopes to land a major backer willing to underwrite the system to the tune of “a couple million dollars” over five years. In New York City, Citibank sponsored the system. The bikes there carry the Citi logo.

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