Transportation

How bike sharing could reduce traffic on Highway 50 and ease commute headaches

The walk from the Zinfandel light-rail station to Vision Service Plan headquarters in Rancho Cordova takes about 20 minutes – enough time to significantly lengthen a morning commute.

But employees will soon have a faster way than walking: a fleet of vibrant bicycles set to deploy this spring. Part of a partnership between Rancho Cordova and Folsom, the approximately 300 bicycles are a 12-month experiment in how to reduce traffic along the congested Highway 50 corridor.

Instantly recognizable by their green frames and yellow tire covers, the bikes will be owned and managed by LimeBike, a young company turning streets greener in cities across the country. Each bicycle is GPS and 3G enabled, allowing users to unlock them and pay for their rides on a smartphone app. It costs $1 for 30 minutes, or $30 a month for 100 rides.

"There's a lot of general interest" in commuting options other than driving, said Chris Holmes, a principal in VSP's internal audit department. When taking light rail, "it's difficult to make that last stretch to the VSP headquarters over Zinfandel (Drive.)"

Hwy 50 Corridor Transportation Management Authority officials are hoping that employees of major companies such as Intel, Kaiser, VSP and SAFE Credit Union will combine public transit and a LimeBike rather than get on Highway 50. The goal is to get new cyclists on the streets, though everyone is welcome to use the bikes.

"Bike share is really about those people who don't bike on a regular basis," Tony Powers, board member of the management authority, told Folsom's City Council on Tuesday night. "It's a way to get some new people out there."

Albert Stricker, Rancho Cordova public works director, said his city and Folsom are ideally positioned to partner on this project because they're connected by the American River Parkway's popular bike path.

The LimeBike pilot will also help both cities figure out how to best serve their cycling populations through data, he said. LimeBike collects anonymous data on duration and where trips start and end, which can help city staff determine which roads need bike lanes and where to place bike racks.

LimeBike's data helps the company's on-the-ground staff redistribute bikes to areas most in need, said Joe Gagliardi, president and CEO of the Greater Folsom Partnership. Initially, the bikes will be clustered around light-rail stations, major employers and downtown attractions.

"As they start to get more demand, they locate them where the highest demand is," he said. "It's not one size fits all."

Dr. Anthony Retodo, medical services director for Kaiser Permanente's Folsom facility, was part of the task force assigned to choosing a bike share provider for the area. He said LimeBike was the only dockless option that had multiple gears, which he considers essential for people trying to get around Folsom's hills. They also offer an electric-assist bike option, which has a small motor that maintains speed when riders pedal slower.

"It was the friendly option in terms of gears," Retodo said. "And they offered an electric bike option, which is important for some of our folks who have a fear of climbing up hills."

About 20 percent of the bikes will be electric in Rancho Cordova and 30 percent in Folsom.

It's not LimeBike's first foray into the Sacramento region. Impatient with the progress of a regional bike share program, West Sacramento discussed bringing LimeBike to the city in March 2017. In the end, that pursuit pushed the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to finalize a contract with Social Bicycles, or SoBi.

At the time, West Sacramento was one of the first cities LimeBike was eyeing for a launch. However, after SACOG moved up the SoBi deployment, the green bikes never materialized on West Sacramento streets.

SoBi launched a soft pilot last May in Sacramento, Davis and West Sacramento. In November, the company announced it plans to bring 900 electric-assist bikes to the same region in May under a new moniker, "JUMP."

In the months since, LimeBike burst onto the market in 45 locations, including Dallas, Seattle and Washington, D.C. South Lake Tahoe had a three-month pilot program over the summer, but the company removed the bikes before the first snowfall.

They often arrive almost simultaneously with one or several of their competitors, primarily Spin, Ofo and Mobike. With several different colors and styles of bikes flooding streets at once, some city governments and residents have been frustrated by vandalism, piles of toppled bikes and bikes parked the middle of paths or roadways.

In Dallas, mismanagement of the dockless bikes spawned a "Dallasbikemess" Instagram account and even caught the attention of singer Katy Perry, who mentioned the piles of bikes a couple of times during her January concert in the city.

In response to criticism from Dallas city officials, LimeBike created a video parody of "The Matrix" featuring movie villain Mr. Smith interrogating protagonists Neo and Trinity about where they will park their LimeBikes.

In Folsom, the city's 311 equivalent, See Click Fix, will have a separate button for anyone to report a poorly placed LimeBike.

In Rancho Cordova and Folsom, LimeBike plans to conduct an education campaign, with booths at local events like Farmers Markets. The company will train cyclists to educate their other riders in the community on where to appropriately park the bikes. The app also indicates where bikes can be parked.

"A lot of folks, this is the first time back on a bike in awhile," said Jack Song, a LimeBike spokesman. "There's a few learning curves."

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