Bike sharing is coming to the Capital Region.
The program that has proved successful in large urban centers will get a test market in the area's four largest cities this summer as part of a pilot program operated by the Capital District Transportation Committee. Starting on Jay Street in Schenectady next month, the program will allow registered users to grab one of 25 bicycles from stations located around the city and then use them at no cost during daylight hours.
After week-long stint in the Electric City, the bikes will head east to Troy's Riverfront Park, where the program will enter it's next leg of the trial. Stations on Division Street in Saratoga Springs and Albany's Washington Park will follow respectively, giving cyclists from all four major urban centers a shot at utilizing the unique program.
CDTC Executive Director Michael Franchini said the idea is to gauge regional interest in the program. Participants will be asked to complete a short survey, while the CDTC will compile usage data generated from each city to see where they bicycles were best utilized.
CDTC is employing Buffalo BikeShare, a company that has operated a program in the western part of the state for two years. Buffalo utilizes “Social Bicycle” --also called SOBI –brand bicycles, which feature a state-of-the-art GPS system.
In Buffalo, BikeShare is quickly becoming an integral part of the livening urban scene, with a strong positive response from university students, city residents, and local businesses," said Anders Gunnersen, Buffalo BikeShare's director, in a statement Friday.
The Jay Street station will be running between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., starting on July 10. A credit card will be required to borrow one of the bicycles as security, according to organizers, but cyclists will then be able to use the bikes during any of the legs of the pilot program.
In Buffalo, riders are able to reserve a bike using a 4-digit code entered via a mobile app or on a keypad installed on the bike itself. To end a trip, riders simply return the bikes to racks set up at hub locations, where they are again locked to a rack.
Buffalo's program costs an annual membership fee of $30 and is limited mostly to students from the University at Buffalo. The program allows riders to use the bikes for an hour per day at no added charge, and assesses a $3 per hour fee for each hour over the limit.
A similar program is underway at the Skidmore College campus in Saratoga Springs, though it is free for students and faculty. Anyone with a Skidmore ID who has filled out a waiver can check out one of the bikes at the library circulation desk and use it for up to 24 hours.
Though relegated predominately to large cities, bike share programs have proven successful around the state. New York City is now home the largest bike share program in nation
Citi Bike includes 6,000 bicycles and more than 300 docking stations throughout the city. Started last year, the membership-based program allows users to sign up any station kiosk with a credit card, or obtain an annual membership by enrolling online.
Citi Bike charges an annual membership fee of $95 or 24-hour rates of around $10, but allows riders to borrow bikes throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen believes the pilot program in the Capital Region fits right in with her city's efforts to promote environmentally friendly initiatives.
“With our continued priorities of sustainability and ensuring our streets serve the needs of all users- whether biking, walking, taking a bus, or driving,” she said in a statement. “This trial bike share provides an opportunity for our residents and visitors to try out the concept within our city."