Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

The Wheel Deal: City bike share to roll out this week.

The Harrisburg bike share system will comprise 11 docking locations similar to those in Philadelphia, pictured above. (Image from Creative Commons database.)

A local nonprofit and community sponsors have finalized plans for the city’s first bike share, which will put 55 communal bicycles on Harrisburg’s streets starting Sept. 29.

The program is modeled after bike share systems that have sprouted up in recent years in cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Paying members use a smart phone app or text messages to unlock a bicycle from the docking station and then ride and return it to any docking station in the city.

A $25 annual membership will give riders free access to bikes for periods shorter than two hours and then charge $2 for each hour after that. “Pay as You Go” members will be charged $2 for each hour they use a bike.

The program is spearheaded by Communities in Schools Pennsylvania (CIS), a dropout prevention organization, and sponsored by organizations including Highmark insurance and the Dauphin County commissioners. CIS will outsource bike share management to Zagster, a startup that operates more than 100 city bike shares across the country.

A map released by CIS on Tuesday shows 11 docking stations in the city’s Uptown, Midtown and downtown neighborhoods and on City Island.

Ryan Riley, president of CIS, said that Zagster representatives helped determine where to place docking stations. National data show that bike shares are most successful when docking stations are spaced ¼-mile apart in areas with high pedestrian safety, he explained.

Those standards mean that some neighborhoods were cut off from the docking stations, Riley said, since major thoroughfares in the city cannot safely accommodate cyclists.

“Paxton Street and Cameron Street were two big impediments,” Riley said. “But that cuts off parts of Allison Hill and Bellevue Park, which creates a whole section of the city that can’t connect with the other parts of it safely.”

The station map released by CIS on Tuesday. Jenna Lewis, CIS vice president, said that the Broad Street East station shown here will be moved to the corner of Front and Division streets.

The stations also had to be located on city property. All of the docking stations are located on public sidewalks, or, in the case of the City Island stations, on city-owned land, said Jenna Lewis, CIS vice president.

Riley hopes to add more docking locations in the future, but said that early user trends will dictate how the program grows. Bike share sponsors will watch ridership data to see who is using the bicycles and for what purposes.

“We need to know if this will be a leisure [service] or if we have people who want to use these bikes to get to employment areas,” Riley said. “We need to see success to know where to expand.”

Zagster will charge an annual $90,000 subscription fee for bikes, insurance, maintenance and technical support. Harrisburg’s program also will have a separate marketing budget to fund ad campaigns and outreach events.

Riley said that the bike share sponsors are committed to seeing the program through for at least two years, though they don’t expect it to be self-sustaining after that.

Instead, they see their sponsorships as investments in public health, community building and traffic improvements.

“The whole point of bike shares is to increase pedestrian access by using bikes to improve communities and replace driving,” Riley said.

The program is part of a larger effort to raise awareness of CIS’s mission within the Harrisburg community, according to Riley. He said that the program launch will tie into their plans to establish a reengagement center for underserved youth in the city. CiS expects to open that center in spring 2018.

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