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Next year, instead of driving or walking several blocks to get to shops, restaurants or other spots in downtown Greenville, residents and visitors will be able to snag a bicycle from a bike-sharing station to make the short journey.
Announced this week and set to be fully operational in the spring, Greenville B-Cycle will initially offer 28 adult bicycles at six stations for pickups or returns. The bike-sharing system is a joint project involving Upstate Forever, the Greenville Hospital System, the Greenville Transit Authority and the Greenville County Recreation District.
Designed to be an inexpensive and healthier alternative to driving and parking, Greenville B-Cycle lets you buy a daily, weekly or annual membership costing $5 to $60 – and the first hour is free. According to Upstate Forever, approximate cost of the bikes is $4,000-$6,000 each, including the bicycles, docking stations, self-serve kiosks and software.
Bike stations are planned for the Hyatt Regency, Greenlink transit station, Greenville City Hall, Fluor Field, the Sterling Community Center and County Square.
Spartanburg has been using a B-Cycle system since July 2011 and has 14 bicycles divided between stations at Morgan Square and the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail, said Laura Ringo, executive director of Partners for Active Living.
The area had a HUB Cycle program that was launched in 2007, she said. "The program was so successful, we couldn't keep up with demand."
In the last 18 months, Spartanburg B-Cycle has logged 2,088 members who took 3,485 trips and burned more than a million calories, she said.
Greenville organizers say they hope that the bike-sharing program will also provide mobility for those who do not have reliable transportation. Brad Wyche, executive director of Upstate Forever, said the bikes will help to address the "last mile barrier," often a stretch that's too far to walk between public transportation and people's workplaces.
The bicycles are unisex models that are easy to ride, have comfortable seats and feature a GPS system that tracks how far a rider goes along with the number of calories burned. Each will be outfitted with a cargo basket, chain guard, lock and LED lights, but not helmets. Organizers hope to secure grant funds to purchase helmets for participants.
Jason McDowell of B-Cycle said the bikes are designed to be "durable and as robust as possible," often only needing replacement grips, tires, seats and chains. He said the system is easy to use and is opening riders' eyes to cycling beyond recreation. "The U.S. is just getting used to the bike as a tool rather than just a toy," he said.
In addition to offering transportation, the B-Cycle system will reduce carbon emissions and pollution, along with providing much-needed health benefits, said Wyche. Dr. Angelo Sinopoli, chief medical officer at Greenville Hospital System, said the program "fits perfectly in our total health approach."
Greenville County Councilwoman Xanthene Norris said she was happy to have County Square and the Sterling Community Center included in the new system.
Katy Smith, who rode to the B-Cycle announcement on her bicycle, said, "It's a cool thing, but it's also more efficient for our city." She has been using her bicycle to run errands from her Augusta Road home for about three years, she said. Smith added that the B-Cycle will offer people the opportunity to test out getting around by bike.
The first B-Cycle was started in Denver in 2010 through a partnership with Humana, Trek Bicycle Corporation and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Greenville will be the 17th B-Cycle location.
The Spartanburg program was funded through the Mary Black Foundation, the City of Spartanburg and a corporate donor. Spartanburg is looking to add two stations in early 2013 and two more by summer, Ringo said.
And for future connectivity, two B-Cycle programs in Colorado are piloting a cooperative use system where memberships could be used in any city with B-Cycle stations. This type of agreement may be possible between Spartanburg, Greenville and Charlotte, N.C., which launched a B-Cycle program several months ago, Ringo said.
For more information, visit www.bcycle.com.