WE-cycle bike share for Carbondale, Glenwood delayed for more planning

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Mirte Mallory stands next to a WE-cycle station on the east side of the Rubey Park bus terminal in this Aspen Times file photo.
Aspen Times file photo |

Carbondale and Glenwood Springs will have to wait longer for bike-sharing in town.

WE-cycle, which launched the first-ever free bike-sharing program in Aspen and Basalt last year, told the Carbondale board of trustees that it will need another year to put together a comprehensive, regional plan for bike-sharing.

“The good news is, bike share is coming. The slow news is, it’s going to take longer,” WE-cycle founder Mirte Mallory told the Carbondale trustees.

WE-cycle initially planned to roll out the bike share in Carbondale in 2020, but the extra planning means bikes won’t be on the streets until 2021.

RFTA, which currently partners with WE-cycle, needs more time to develop a plan, and marshal financial resources to deploy services further down valley.

Carbondale Dan Richardson said the delay was disappointing but could result in better service.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t implement something in 2020, but I think, as a whole, mobility in the region will benefit from a little bit more thoughtful thinking on RFTA’s part,” Richardson said.

A large part of the considerations is how to pay for the service. In Aspen and Basalt, the first 30 minutes of use on the shared bikes is free, and after that come some steep fees to discourage longer use. But that requires significant investment from both public and private sources.

Carbondale and Glenwood Springs may also have different needs, RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said in an interview.

“We will be working through a variety of issues to try to determine what bike share systems will look like in Carbondale and in Glenwood Springs,” Blankenship said.

Aspen and Basalt both have standard bikes in the bike share, but e-bikes may be in the mix for Carbondale, since the main BRT station is a half-mile from downtown, and many bus users come from further south.

“That might be a little too much of a distance for people to use traditional pedal bikes, and we might be looking at possibly incorporating e-bikes,” Blankenship said.

Glenwood Springs may also be a candidate for e-bikes as well. And further in the future, Blankenship thinks e-bikes might be good for New Castle, which has more varied elevation.

As for the cost, Blankenship said it helps if the service is free, and makes a bigger impact in RFTA’s commitment to improve first-mile and last-mile commutes.

“If it’s free in Aspen and free in the mid-valley, then there’s an argument that it should be free in Carbondale, Glenwood and other places,” Blankenship said.

But that requires more planning. RFTA is also considering whether to continue a contractual relationship with WE-cycle, or bring those services in-house.

According to minutes from RFTA’s September board meeting, implementation of Carbondale’s bike share could start in 2021. The planning for Glenwood Springs is anticipated for 2021.  

“It’s about figuring out the appropriate solution for each community, on a town-by-town approach,” Mallory said.

While the delay of the bike share in Carbondale was disappointing to some town trustees, Richardson said it was not an urgent need.

“I think also, we realized that while there will be great benefit, it’s not urgent at this moment,” Richardson said.