Will St. Petersburg get a bicycle sharing program?

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Another Tampa Bay area city may be getting a bike share program; transportation officials held a bicycle sharing public information and visioning session Tuesday night in St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg’s Transportation and Parking Management and the United States Environmental Protection Agency hosted a public workshop for the development of the local bike share system.

Talks about bike sharing in St. Pete started way back in 2013 when the city council approved a piggyback deal that would have added St. Pete to Tampa’s contract with Coast Bike Share. But in the end, St. Pete officials decided that Tampa’s model is not a good fit.

St. Pete’s Transportation Manager, Cherly Stacks, talked about why it took more than two years for the city to develop a bike share system.

“We’ve been kind of looking at the different models and different technologies, some models that are a little bit more like the Tampa model where you’ve got the GPS on the bike itself. And then there’s some models like in D.C. and Broward County that have the GPS inside the stations themselves and the bikes are unique but they don’t have that smart technology in them. And that choice in type of technology is a big factor in deciding whether how much the system is going to cost the city. So that’s one of the things that we’ve been struggling with. Just trying to figure out which model do we think is gonna be most appropriate in St. Pete.”

But Eric Trull, a St. Pete resident and Tampa’s Coast Bike Share Program Director believes that Coast’s model is a good fit for St. Pete.

“I really think that our model is the preferable model. Having everything built into the bike that we call a “smart bike”. What that means is the locking mechanism, the entire device that controls your experience is built in. That enables you to make a stop at a local coffee shop, put the bike on hold. Make a quick run in and run out. You’re not relying on this huge hubs and stations to use the system.”

For the first time in more than two years, the community was able to provide input on the ongoing bike share discussions through Tuesday’s public workshop.

John Sun, a St. Pete resident said that he supports bike sharing because of its many advantages.

“I think it promotes a healthy lifestyle, reduce pollution. It gives people more option to commute.”

Meanwhile, James Shirk, chairman of Hillsborough County Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee supports the program for equity.

“What I really want for bicycle share is for it get more into disadvantaged neighborhoods. Neighborhoods of color, particularly.”

For those who were unable to attend the meeting, an online survey is available at stpete.org.

The input gathered from the community, stakeholders, and city staff will be compiled in a report. The report will then be used to create a Request for Proposal.

St. Pete officials are looking at implementing the bike share system by 2016.

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