Aspen bike-sharing group seeking start-up funds
January 26, 2011
ASPEN – A local nonprofit hoping to start a bike-sharing program in Aspen this spring needs $550,000 to launch the enterprise.
WE-Cycle is looking for support, including sponsors to advertise on the bicycles and kiosk stations, said organizers Mirte Mallory and Philip Jeffreys, who appeared before the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors Tuesday morning to pitch their plan.
They hope to secure $250,000 by the end of February to place an order for 100 bicycles and eight to 10 kiosks. They have $100,000 so far, including $35,000 in federal air-quality funds funneled through the city of Aspen. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Aspen Skiing Co. Environment Foundation are also supporters, and a private donor has provided a matching grant, according to Mallory.
The pair showed a sample bike to the ACRA board and explained their vision for kiosks placed around downtown Aspen and its periphery, allowing members to grab a bike for short trips, taking a bike from one kiosk and leaving it at another when they reach their destination.
The concept has taken off worldwide, according to Mallory. In 2009, there were 150 such programs and by the end of 2010, there were 250, she said.
“It’s happening quickly. Denver launched one last spring, Boulder is starting one in April,” Mallory said.
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The concept is not, however, limited to large cities, Jeffreys said. Seven small resorts in Switzerland have such systems in place, he said.
The steel, three-speed bikes are constructed with durability in mind (the cables run through the interior of the frame and the seat adjusts, but does not come off). A basket is secured to the front.
“They’re very heavy … but we can get up the hill on Mill Street,” Mallory said.
“They’re OK,” agreed Mayor Mick Ireland, an ACRA board member who has tried out one of the bikes. “I wouldn’t recommend taking them up the [Independence Pass]. They’re a little heavy for that.”
WE-Cycle demonstrated the bikes and a kiosk briefly in Aspen last summer, and has since secured city permission to use downtown rights of way for kiosks. On the perimeter, they will go on private property.
The goal is to make them available from May to October in Aspen. Three rides a day per bike for 170 days would equate to 51,000 rides and 76,500 miles of bike trips facilitated by the program, assuming an average trip of 1.5 miles, according to WE-Cycle.
The self-help kiosks let users pay to use the bikes, or they can go to an online site; envisioned memberships would cost $5 per day, $15 for five days and $39 for the season. Bike use is then free for the first 30 minutes, with a fee structure for longer use. Ideally, users get a bike for a quick trip and then put it back in a kiosk somewhere else, keeping the bikes in constant rotation, Jeffreys explained.
“Bike sharing is about the point-to-point short trips,” Mallory agreed.
WE-Cycle isn’t looking to compete with local bike shops, and taking one of the bikes on a ride to Woody Creek and back would be both costly and strenuous, given the weight of the bikes, Jeffreys said. “We really want to keep the bike shops vital,” he said.
While most locals own their own bikes, WE-Cycle would cater to visitors and people who come to Aspen to work, either via a personal vehicle or public transportation, but would use the bikes for short trips once they’re here, Jeffreys said.
Go to http://www.we-cycle.org for more on the proposed program.