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Dockless bike share program coming to Bloomington and IU



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Sophomore Sarah Snoddy parks her bike in front of Franklin Hall. A new bike sharing program in Bloomington, called Pace, will begin this spring. Mallory Smith Buy Photos

After a few years of consideration and more than a month and a half of contract negotiations, IU and the City of Bloomington have finalized plans for a bike share program.

“A lot of people already ride, and I think you're going to find some more people riding bikes that didn't ride bikes before because it's just so easy,” said Kevin Whited, transportation demand management coordinator and bicycle manager for IU. 

The city and campus signed a contract in early February with Zagster, a bike share company used in more than 200 colleges and cities. They selected Pace, the company's dockless bike share system. 

This model has tracking technology on the units and allows riders to pick up and drop off the bikes at any rack on campus or in the city. 

Whited said he expects the service to begin by the end of the spring semester, starting with 150 bikes. Zagster will monitor usage rates and add bikes accordingly. 

“In a city our size, if you do the math that most bike share companies use, we should have 600 to 700 bikes floating around Bloomington and campus,” Whited said. 

The service will cost $1 per thirty minutes, Whited said.

“Sometimes you don’t want to bike to every place you’re going, but it’s really convenient to bike from one place to the next,” said Beth Rosenbarger, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for Bloomington.

IU first noted the possibility of a bikeshare program in its 2015 bicycle master plan, a document University administration wrote to outline goals for bicycling on campus. At that time, Whited said, bike-share programs could cost cities anywhere from $100,000 to $600,000.

The rise of dockless systems has eliminated these start-up costs, Rosenbargar said.  

“The nature of bike-share has changed so much, it became a more viable option for our community and IU,” Rosenbarger said. 

Having GPS technology on each bike eliminates the need to construct docking stations, which caused expenses for cities. 

Bikers can find and check out bikes through the Pace Bike Share app available in the App Store and Google Play. 

Users will be able to match the number on a specific unit to the corresponding number in the app to check out a bike from IU’s existing bike racks on campus or Zagster-branded bike racks to be constructed throughout the city. While these bike racks are not required for dockless systems, Whited said the city needed to accommodate the expected increase in riders.  

Tracking technology on the bike allows the company to charge additional fees and higher rates to users who lock their bikes to other structures.

Whited said 50 to 60 percent of IU’s bike racks are currently documented in the University’s Graphical Information System, an online platform the University uses to map infrastructure such as sidewalks and  buildings. 

He is working on tracking all of the bike racks on campus so Zagster can monitor whether people leave their bikes in appropriate spots. 

Representatives from Zagster visited Bloomington last Thursday and Friday to get an idea of the distances students and community members travel. They also noted potential locations for Zagster-branded bike racks in the city.

“We showed them where a lot of the residents live, and then where the classes are,” Whited said. 

If a biker leaves Bloomington, geofencing technology will prevent them from locking it, and they will be charged until returning to the city.  

Whited said he expects the service to increase the amount of students coming in and out of the city and will help faculty and staff commute between meetings across campus. Rosenbargar said it will also benefit visitors to Bloomington. 

“I hope it will increase the amount of people riding," Whited said. "And when people ride, they tend to want to purchase their own bicycle eventually. And then they pay attention to traffic a little bit better. And then people want bike lanes. And then they put that demand on the city and the University, and then we can make the city safer.”  

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the process required to check out the bikes through an app.

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