Biking advocates gathered in Bakery Square on Monday to announce plans for a bike-share system to start in Pittsburgh next year that would feature 500 bicycles stationed at 50 special bike docks across the city.
Slated for a spring or summer 2014 opening, a subscriber could choose a short-term membership of one day or a long-term plan of one year. The user can then check out one of the sturdy bikes from one docking station and deposit it at any of the other 49 destinations.
Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker said the bike-share program is meant to allow Pittsburghers to use bikes for short trips, whether planned or impromptu.
"This is to get you from your bus to your place of work, to a restaurant, to get a beer, to go to a ball game, and then lock [the bicycles] up at these kiosks," said Bricker.
He said similar programs have been successful in cities like Boston and Washington. He's hopeful that user fees and corporate sponsorships will garner enough money to double the size of the system within a few years.
"The more stations there are, the more convenient and easy it is to get these things, and the more whimsical you can be when you're deciding to use one of these bikes because they're absolutely everywhere," said Bricker.
Bricker hailed the project as proof that Pittsburgh has transformed into one of the nation's most bike-friendly cities over the course of a decade.
"We're right in line with San Francisco and Seattle and Portland in planning for bike-share right now. Those cities haven't launched either. Chicago hasn't launched. We're toe-to-toe with them," said Bricker. "We're doing this work at the exact same time these cities that really predated us on bike infrastructure by decades are planning this."
Bricker said there would be no requirement to wear safety gear because such "helmet mandates" lower usage rates in other cities by discouraging unplanned bike trips.
The planned $4 million bike-share system in Pittsburgh would be funded by a $1.6 million federal grant, as well as corporate sponsorships and donations from foundations. After the initial construction costs, Bricker said continuing corporate sponsorships and user fees would likely be enough to both maintain and expand the system.