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Two months in, bike share running smoothly

pace bicycle

The Pace dockless bike share program started in June.  Zheng Guan Buy Photos

A lone blue and white bike rested against a light pole in Woodlawn Fields at 6:53 a.m. Monday. The white basket, stamped with the word “pace” in bubbly blue lettering, faced a sidewalk soon filled with students heading to class along Woodlawn Avenue.

Pace bikes have been scattered around IU and Bloomington for two months. Abandoned units, like the one on Woodlawn Fields, reflect an ongoing effort to educate users on the rules and opportunities created by the Pace dockless bike share.

“It’s a really economic way to get around,” said Beth Rosenbarger, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for Bloomington.

The dockless system, run by bike share company Zagster, allows users to pick up bikes from any location and drop them at a bike rack near their final destination. The Pace app, free in the App Store and Google Play store, shows where bikes are located. 

The first ride is free for all users. Starting this week, students can purchase a $9.99 monthly membership for unlimited rides of up to 60 minutes. Without a membership, or when subscribers surpass 60 minutes, rides cost $1 for 30 minutes. A current promotion for Bloomington community members equals the monthly student rate. 

Riders are allowed to dock Pace bikes at any bike rack, whether public or private, and with or without Pace logos. 

Karl Alexander, market manager for Pace, said so far the usage levels in Bloomington are similar to other communities with Pace startups. Bloomington’s “bikeability” – existing trails and residents’ familiarity with biking – has helped the program start off on the right foot, he said. 

About a dozen other communities have Pace programs, including Austin, Texas and Chicago, Illinois. Purdue introduced the service last week. Memberships are interchangeable between communities. 

There are currently 150 bikes shared between IU and Bloomington. Pace will track usage over the next couple months to determine when, and how many units need to be added. 

Since its introduction in June, the program has averaged about 0.6 rides per day, but numbers have already started to increase as students have returned this month. As of August 20, usage rates averaged 76 rides per day, said Amanda Turnipseed, director of IUB Office of Parking Operations.

“We’re expecting a big change,” said Turnipseed. 

Senior AJ Duncan walked a Pace bike up to a bike rack outside the School of Public and Environmental Affairs around 7:40 a.m. Wednesday. He said he doesn’t ride bikes often, but thought he would test whether the Pace program could ease his commute to campus. It worked, cutting his typical fifteen to twenty minute walk in half. 

“It’s set up pretty conveniently,” Duncan said. “I can just leave it when I go to class.”

Unlike Bloomington, IU has no dedicated Pace bike racks on its property. This feature was part of the dockless system’s appeal, Turnipseed said, as the campus already has many bike racks and did not want to alter its aesthetics. 

Bloomington, however, now has several Pace racks and will add more in the coming year, Alexander said. 

A small local Pace operations team, aided by IU parking and enforcement staff, “rebalance” bikes from undesirable places, such as handrails and fences, and makes sure they are distributed throughout the campus and city on a daily basis, Turnipseed said. The Pace team also does routine maintenance and addresses service problems, like flat tires, when reported through the app. 

If a user parks a bike somewhere other than a bike rack – like the lonely bike on Woodlawn Fields – a warning is sent to the user through the app. Pace managers have the ability to penalize these users through additional fees or suspensions, but for now, the focus is on education. 

“We’d much rather give a carrot than hit them with a stick,” Alexander said. 

While many students and community members are familiar with biking, not everyone understands the benefit of Pace for their daily lives, Alexander said. That will take some informing. 

“Just like any new transit option, any new bike share option in the country, folks may not understand when, why, how or what they might use it for,” Alexander said. 

Within fifteen minutes of the operations team dropping off Pace bikes for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in June, a student had already downloaded the app and snagged a bike to run an errand, Alexander said. He had to chase her down to tell her the service wasn’t live yet, but she convinced him to let her use the bike for the five-minute trip. 

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