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Lexington riders took nearly 7,500 trips on Spin bikes in first month

Michael Lewis scans the QR code on the back of a Spin bike with the Spin app in downtown Lexington. Each Spin bike is equipped with a GPS tracker that is powered by a solar panel.
Michael Lewis scans the QR code on the back of a Spin bike with the Spin app in downtown Lexington. Each Spin bike is equipped with a GPS tracker that is powered by a solar panel. swalker@herald-leader.com

Since the end of June, about 7,500 Lexington residents have taken a “spin” using the city’s new bike-share program. They’ve logged 7,482 trips and traveled more than 6,000 miles on Spin bikes, according to data released by the city.

Scott Thompson, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he expected a lot of growing pains, complaints and other headaches in the pilot program’s first month. Other cities have struggled to manage dockless bike-sharing programs.

Instead, Thompson has received a lot of emails praising the program.

“I’ve had a lot of really great feedback,” he said.

The city has received about a half dozen complaints since Spin’s launch June 25, he said. One bike was stolen and there was a technology hiccup one afternoon that meant some people were not able to use the application to rent the bikes.

The complaints have come from citizens who say a bike is in the wrong place or has been in one place for too long. People can send a complaint to Spin at support@spin. pm., Thompson said. If people give them the number of the bike and its location, Spin can move it.

The company’s contract with the city requires them to move complaint-related bikes in three hours.

UK and the city of Lexington both have agreements with the for-profit bike-share company. The program doesn’t cost the city any up-front money, nor does the city have to subsidize it.

Bikes can be rented with a credit card and unlocked using a smart phone application. They do not have to be returned to set locations. The cost is $1 per half hour.

Spin launched about 300 bikes on June 25. They are adding more bikes as use increases.

“This is a pilot program,” Thompson said. “We are trying to figure out what is the number; we want to slowly get to that. Too many bikes on the street is what has caused problems in other communities. This is a cautious approach.”

Some cities, such as Washington D.C., were inundated with complaints from residents after dockless bike-share programs were launched. But those cities used multiple providers, which flooded the streets and sidewalks and turned bicycles into eye sores and traffic hazards.

UK and the city both chose the same company for the pilot program for that reason, said Shane Tedder, sustainability coordinator for UK.

UK had 1,900 users in July, according to data Spin provided to Thompson. And that was before most students returned to Lexington for the fall semester.

Tedder said the university has been shocked and pleased at how well the program has worked at the state’s largest university in its first 30 days.

“We really haven’t had any complaints yet,” Tedder said.

UK’s contract with Spin requires the company to provide 140 bikes on campus during weekdays at various locations. UK’s bikes must be parked at the universities’ more than 5,000 bike parking spots.

Tedder said Spin has hired four employees who move bikes that are not parked at a bike rack or bike parking spot. Spin also moves bikes on the campus to various areas if too many are in one area. Once school starts, UK and Spin will monitor use to see if 140 bikes is enough.

“This has to be a reliable and predictable transportation option,” Tedder said.

Melody Flowers, executive director of strategic analysis and policy, said it has been popular with UK faculty and staff in its first month.

“We know people use them to go downtown for a meeting,” Flowers said. “Or to go to lunch or to run an errand. It makes it a lot more seamless for our employees who don’t have to use their car and come back and find a parking spot.”

Tedder said one faculty member tried a Spin bike after not having been on a bike in a decade. He loved it and bought a helmet so he could bike more.

Spin is part of a much broader effort to decrease the amount of car traffic on UK’s campus. People who are members of the Commute Club, a program that provides various benefits to students, staff and faculty who do not get an annual parking pass, can get a Spin membership for free.

Also, anyone with an email address that ends in “edu” can get 50 percent off the cost of a ride, Tedder said. That applies to Transylvania University and Bluegrass Community and Technical College students as well.

Thompson said the city and UK will be able to get additional data after three months, telling them where the bikes are being used, the most popular routes, if they are being used in lower-income neighborhoods, and if there is a shortage or surplus of bikes in particular areas.

After a year, the city will look at what worked and what didn’t to determine public policy about personal transportation devices in the public right of way.

Spin by the numbers from June 25 to July 31:

App users in Lexington: 5,689

App users at UK: 1,900

Total: 7,589

Trips for Lexington users: 5,657

Trips for UK: 1,825

Total: 7,482

Miles for Lexington users: 3,959

Miles for UK users: 2,337

Total: 6,292

Average trip distance for Lexington users: 0.7 miles

Average trip distance for UK users: 1.5 miles

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