WE-cycle plans to pedal into Basalt next year
The Aspen Times
WE-cycle will pack up its gear at the end of October after a third season in Aspen, but it will remain busy in the winter with planning an expansion into Basalt and the introduction of a mobile app that weds information about the bike-share program with the public bus schedule.
The goal is to launch bike sharing in Basalt on Earth Day on April 22, according to Mirte Mallory, WE-cycle executive director. It will cost about $380,000 to launch and $160,000 for annual operating expenses, she recently told the Basalt Town Council. Basalt approved $17,500 in seed money for planning. Mallory is pursuing contributions from public and private sources to buy the bikes and docking stations needed for the system.
The nonprofit organization offers 100 bicycles at 16 stations scattered around Aspen. Riders pay a fee to use the bikes and must return them to one of the docking stations where they are locked and stored. Most bikes are used for transportation rather than recreation, and most of the rides are less than 30 minutes, according to Mallory.
In Basalt, WE-cycle is planning docking stations at the Basalt Regional Library and adjacent Basalt Post Office, on Midland Avenue, at the bus station on Highway 82 and at Arbaney Park. Micro-stations with fewer bikes are being planned in the Elk Run subdivision.
In West Basalt, WE-cycle is planning stations at the El Jebel bus station, a site along El Jebel Road, the Whole Foods area and micro-stations in the Willits subdivision.
The concept in Basalt is to provide bikes at key points so that people could leave their vehicles at home. For example, a resident of Elk Run could hop on a bike in the morning and ride to the bus station on Highway 82. At the end of the day, they could reverse course, stop at the post office for their mail, stop downtown for a beverage, then take a bike back to Elk Run.
The customers pay to unlock a bicycle. Once they are dropped off at a station, they are available for another customer’s use. WE-cycle staff shuttle bikes to keep stations stocked. Passes are available for one day or as long as the whole season — May through October in Aspen, probably longer in Basalt.
Mallory told the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority Board of Directors on Thursday that the expansion into Basalt could entice people to take bicycles to catch the bus. That would take pressure off the park-and-ride lots, she said. Surveys show that 85 percent of WE-cycle passholders use the bikes to connect to RFTA buses.
Mallory said she believes WE-cycle is the only bike-share program in a rural area. RFTA was a pioneer partner for WE-cycle in Aspen. The board members indicated they will contribute another $25,000 to the program for 2016. RFTA also will consider possible funding for WE-cycle’s expansion into Basalt.
RFTA board member and Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said he is a regular WE-cycle customer. He said he used a bike from the program to ride to a carpool site Thursday morning and caught a ride downvalley to the RFTA meeting in Carbondale. He planned to ride a RFTA bus back to Aspen after the meeting.
Mallory also touted a mobile application that is running a test program in Aspen. Transitapp.com exists to help users track departure times and get directions on how to best get to a destination. The company is teaming with PBSC Urban Solutions for the experiment. They selected Aspen to test a system that integrates the bike-share program with the bus service. The application helps a user plot how to get from one location to another using WE-cycle and RFTA. Users also can pay for a bike and arrange to get it unlocked via their cellphone.
The experiment will run through October. If successful, the plan is to integrate information about bike-share and public-transit systems throughout the country, Mallory said.
With many lingering questions still surrounding the fate of Aspen’s historic Old Powerhouse, City Council decided during Monday’s work session to hold off on providing staff direction on moving the preservation project forward until more information can be presented.