ASPEN - Aspen will wait another year for the long-awaited launch of a bike-sharing program.
Organizers of WE-Cycle are now aiming at 2013 for the debut of community bike sharing - a program they initially hoped to launch in the spring of 2011 and then pushed back to 2012. The latest delay, said WE-Cycle's Mirte Mallory, is the result of the federal procurement process through which a vendor is being selected to provide certain components of the system.
"Let me tell you, this has been a long, thorough process," she said.
WE-Cycle has lined up a number of founding partners, including the Aspen Institute, Aspen Meadows, Aspen Skiing Co. and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, intending to launch bike sharing without a local tax subsidy. Also among the partners are the city of Aspen and Pitkin County, which both allocated congestion-mitigation and air-quality grant funds to the program.
The local governments are contributing federal dollars, funneled to them by the Colorado Department of Transportation specifically for efforts that reduce congestion or improve air quality, but use of the funds triggers a procurement process that has taken longer than organizers anticipated.
Nonetheless, Mallory said she expects the selection of a vendor within the next few weeks. The vendor will then have six months to acquire the necessary components of a system that organizers expect to operate seasonally, from May through October. That means a debut in the spring of 2013.
WE-Cycle will purchase the bikes separately, but the vendor will provide the stations, or kiosks, and the computer software for the program. Three vendors submitted proposals; a selection committee will forward a recommendation to CDOT, which makes the final decision.
"All good things take time," Mallory said this week. "We look forward to being on the ground next summer."
In the meantime, bike sharing is exploding across the country, she noted.
There were five such programs nationwide when WE-Cycle began pitching its proposal to local entities in 2010. Now, there are nearly 20, she said. Denver and Boulder both offer bike-sharing programs, and New York City is launching Citi Bike this summer with 600 stations and 10,000 bikes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
The more modest WE-Cycle system will include eight to 10 stations to start, 100 bicycles and a computer system to track the bikes. Users will be able to check out bikes to get around town, taking them from one station to another and paying a fee for a trip of more than 30 minutes, according to www.we-cycle.org. Last year, the cost of the system was estimated at $550,000.
With vehicular traffic in Aspen seemingly rebounding, Mallory expects the town will embrace bike sharing when it happens.
"Seeing more and more bikes in town is an indication of the community being ready for bike sharing," she said.
Aspen already has seen demonstrations of the WE-Cycle system, and Mallory said organizers hope to have a station or two, loaded with bikes, placed in town again late this summer to give residents and visitors a taste of what's coming.