A bike-share company that allows people to temporarily use bikes for a fee could be operating in downtown Lexington and on several area college campuses as soon as this summer.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council agreed Tuesday to pursue a memorandum of understanding with Spin, a dockless bike-share provider. The University of Kentucky, Transylvania University and Bluegrass Community and Technical College also are considering possible agreements with the company, which has bike-share programs in 18 cities and on 30 college campuses, city officials said Tuesday.
It was Spin's experience working in cities with major universities that made the company stand out from five other bike-share companies interviewed by a group of downtown, tourism, higher education and city officials, said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLex, the county's tourism bureau.
Spin will pay all up-front costs of establishing the dockless bike system. Ramer said they hope to have the program up and running this summer. Where the first bikes will be located has not yet been determined. It will be a pilot program at first.
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The spin website says bikes can be rented for as little as $1.
Scott Thompson, a pedestrian and bicycle planner, said the earliest versions of bike-share programs used stationary docks. That system can be expensive and would cost at least $500,000 in upfront costs. Trips on fixed-dock systems are also limited to locations with docks.
Dockless systems allow users to find and unlock bikes using a smart phone application. Users then relock the bike at their destination.
"It's important to encourage healthy communities," Thompson said during a Tuesday Lexington council work session. "It's also very important for tourism."
More transportation — particularly for short trips in the downtown area — was identified as a need in VisitLex's latest tourism plan.
"We get repeated requests for where people can rent bikes," Thompson said.
Dockless bike-share programs have experienced growing pains in some cities.
In Washington D.C. and Dallas, Texas, for example, city officials have had to threaten to confiscate bikes after users left piles of bikes on sidewalks and in creeks.
Ramer said the city's memorandum of understanding will make it clear where the bikes can be parked. Cities who have multiple dockless bike providers tend to have the most problems, she said. That's why the city and the universities decided to go with the same provider, she said.
"There will be bumps and some rough spots that we will have to work on," Ramer said. "But the technology has improved so much in just a few years."
UK, BCTC and Transy officials all served on an advisory committee that has been meeting for six months. Jay Blanton, a spokesman for UK, said the university "has been talking" with Spin but "nothing decided at this point."
Eastern Kentucky University launched a dockless bike-share program in March. The Richmond University chose LimeBike as its provider.