Spokies bicycle-sharing program expanding

Published Tuesday, January 9, 2018
by Brian Brus

The city’s Spokies bicycle-sharing program will expand again this spring with the installation of three new bike stations after a record year of rentals in 2017.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will help by providing 80 percent of the cost of the new stations, said Jeanne Smith, Oklahoma City’s program manager for bike share and river transit.

Last calendar year, the program reached a peak rental of 1,800 bikes during the summer, compared with 1,400 in 2016.

“We have a ways to go to improve our bike-ability in Oklahoma City,” Smith said. “The city’s Planning Department is working on putting in more bike lanes and to make it safer for cyclists so people like me will feel more comfortable riding around – which is why I assume most of our riders enjoy the Bricktown area where the speed limits are lower.”

Most of what’s driving the increased ridership was an upgrade to BCycle-brand equipment in 2016, she said. BCycle is designed specifically for citywide sharing programs rather than the slightly modified touring bikes Spokies used before. The bikes are more comfortable, easier to rent via smartphone app and part of a network with 50 other cities across the country.

And yet, for all the increased interest, the program didn’t attract sponsors last year. In July, the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority reported its operating budget for the new fiscal year was overall steady compared with 2016-2017. The Spokies program within the full budget was reduced by almost 8 percent to $205,000, reflecting a projected decline in sponsorship revenue that officials planned to offset with marketing expenditures.

Smith said Monday that a request for proposals is being drafted for a vendor to design a marketing and sponsorship plan.

The system now has 51 bikes at eight stations. The planned increase this spring will add 24 bikes at three more stations. The $120,000 cost will be funded 80 percent by a transportation alternative program grant administered by the Transportation Department, with the rest paid from system revenue.

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