ASPEN - The launch of a bike-sharing program in Aspen, originally envisioned this spring, has been pushed back until 2012, giving organizers more time to line up community support and the manufacturer more time to deliver the components on schedule.
WE-Cycle organizers had originally hoped to debut the system this spring, and had lined up enough support to make a down payment on the roughly $550,000 system, including eight to 10 high-tech kiosks, 100 bicycles and a computer system to track the bicycles. The manufacturer, however, couldn't deliver the components for a May start and organizers want to take advantage of the full six months that they intend to operate the system, from May through October, said WE-Cycle's Mirte Mallory.
Instead, WE-Cycle will place its order this fall for a launch in 2012, but Mallory and co-organizer Philip Jeffreys won't be keeping a low profile this summer.
They arranged a one-day demonstration of the community bike-sharing system last summer; this year, two week-long demonstrations are planned involving two of the kiosk/bike stations instead of one. That will allow users to get a better sense of how the system actually works - checking out a bike at one kiosk, riding it to one's destination and docking it in a kiosk there.
"People will be able to ride a bike from point A to point B - actually use the interface," Mallory said.
With the full system, the goal is to place the kiosks at logical locales around town, and there will be a mobile kiosk that can be moved around to high-traffic areas - for special events, for example.
The delayed launch gives Mallory and Jeffreys more time to educate the public about a system that's already in place in Denver and will debut in Boulder this year. Aspen will presumably be the third community in the state with a bike-sharing system.
"The more we've talked to people, the more we realize that people don't understand the concept," Jeffreys said. "Who's going to use it? It's one of the questions we get asked over and over again."
WE-Cycle is envisioned as a means for both tourists and locals to get around the core of Aspen without getting in a vehicle. The town averages more than 100,000 vehicle trips a day in the downtown core, according to Aspen's emissions inventory, organizers note.
Though many residents and commuting workers own bicycles, they may not have their bike accessible when they need to run an errand, get out to the hospital or zip over to the base of Smuggler Mountain for a lunchtime hike, for example, Mallory said.
"It's for all the people who want a bike, but it's not there," Jeffreys said. "It's having a bike where you want it, but it's not there when you don't want it."
Visitors looking to get from their hotel to the music tent, for example, or simply to explore town on two wheels, are also likely participants in the program, Jeffreys added.
Organizers will continue to work with local lodges on WE-Cycle membership, he said.
The bike-sharing program isn't meant to compete with local bike-rental outfits, Mallory stressed. The fee structure, for the time a bike is on the road, is geared for short trips, and so are the bicycles. Users will be directed to bike shops, though, if they want to rent helmets, get a bike for a child (the WE-Cycle bicycles are sized for adults), or ride to Woody Creek.
WE-Cycle has thus far lined up the Aspen Skiing Co., Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, city of Aspen, Manaus Fund, Aspen Institute and Aspen Meadows as founding partners and financial backers. In addition, sponsorship opportunities - putting business names on the bikes and kiosks - are being marketed.
The system employs a solar-powered kiosk, at which users can pay for bike use with a credit card. An overseer tracks use of the GPS-outfitted bikes via computer, and can collect bikes from stations that have too many and redistribute them to spots where more bikes are needed.
The goal, from a user's perspective, is knowing a well-maintained bike will be available when they need one and where they need one, Jeffreys said.
"We do want to spend this summer getting people to really understand the system," he said.
For more information visit www.we-cycle.org.