St. Louis hopes ‘dockless’ bike share program will begin this year | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis hopes ‘dockless’ bike share program will begin this year

Feb 2, 2018

St. Louis officials are shifting gears to bring a bike share program to city residents and visitors.

The St. Louis Board of Alderman Friday approved the permit application to run what’s known as a “dockless” bike share program. Alderman Scott Ogilvie, D-24th Ward, the bill’s sponsor, is hopeful a company will be up and pedaling later this year.

St. Louis first began studying a bike share program in 2014. A study done that year by Great Rivers Greenway estimated the startup cost at $1.8 million to $3.3 million.

Bi-State Development, the regional public transportation agency, failed to secure a roughly $2 million federal grant last year to fund the installation of bicycle docking stations familiar in other major cities.

“Those systems generally require a fairly substantial investment from the city on the front end and we just haven’t managed to fund those,” Ogilvie said.

The vision of residents and tourists taking short trips on borrowed bikes could be saved by technological advances. With lower startup costs, the so-called “dockless” bike share model allows users to locate the nearest available bike affixed with a GPS tracker through their smartphones.

That type of bike share program is now operating alongside a traditional program in Washington, D.C. Austin has also started a dockless share program.

55 bike sharing systems around the country provided 88 million rides from 2010 to 2016, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

“I think the demand is definitely there,” Ogilvie said. “I hear people semi-routinely ask about this. It's something people expect because it's available in other cities.”

A bike share system could be a popular way for tourists to move between destinations in the city or for residents to complete “the last little bit of a trip” without driving, said Emma Klues, a spokeswoman for Great Rivers Greenway.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Ashley Winters contributed reporting.

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