Three years ago this week, the City Council voted to create a city-run bikeshare program downtown and around university campuses that would offer short-term bicycle rentals to make it easier for residents, students and visitors to get around.
Since then, private companies Lime and Bird have flooded downtown and surrounding neighborhoods with bicycles and scooters, and people by the thousands have embraced the idea of paying to take a ride when they want one.
Now the city’s bikeshare program, Citrix Cycle, is ready to begin renting bikes, too, though in a fundamentally different way than Lime or Bird.
The city’s bikes will be available only at docking stations around the city, where riders must return them when they are done. Lime and Bird have no stations; riders can use an app to find the closest bike or scooter and then leave them, often on a sidewalk or near the curb, when they’re finished riding.
The city will eventually make 300 bikes available at 30 docking stations, but only 13 stations with 100 bikes will be ready for the system’s “soft launch” on Saturday, said Fontaine Burruss, the city’s bikeshare coordinator. The remaining stations and bikes should be in place by the end of May, Burruss said.
“We felt like this has been such a long-awaited project for the city of Raleigh that we thought that if we could open up some stations now, the earlier the better,” she said.
The limited start will also give the city and its contractor, Corps Logistics, a chance to fine-tune the operation, which includes moving bikes from station to station to make sure there’s always some available.
The first 13 stations will be concentrated in and around downtown. Other stations will be installed along Hillsborough Street near N.C. State University and in places convenient to greenway trails, including the N.C. Museum of Art and the Walnut Creek Wetland Center.
A single 45-minute ride on a Citrix Cycle will cost $2, but there are options for people who anticipate riding more often.
A $6 day pass gets unlimited 45-minute rides within a 24-hour period, or riders can become members and get unlimited rides for $20 a month or $85 a year ($65 for students). Payments can be made at CitrixCycle.com, on the Citrix Cycle app or at payment kiosks at half of the docking stations.
The bikes have to be returned to a station after each 45-minute ride, Burruss said, even if the renter expects to keep riding. People who keep a bike out longer than 45 minutes will be charged $2 for each additional 30 minutes, she said.
“It just helps keep bikes within the system and makes sure that they’re available for others to use,” she said.
Each bike will have adjustable seats, a basket, a bell, front and rear lights that automatically come on when a rider pedals and a dashboard that displays a rider’s distance, speed and riding time. About two-thirds of the bikes will have electric power to help with pedaling, particularly on hills.
Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager, said the electric-assist bikes should help Citrix Cycle remain competitive with Lime bikes — some of which have electric power — and Lime and Bird scooters. Lamb said the scooters in particular have shown people are hungry for alternative ways to get around without driving and that he’s interested to see how the market for rented bikes and scooters plays out. He notes that scooter-rental industry in particular is still propped up by venture capital money.
“I think there’s still a question long-term about the viability of scooters from a profit model standpoint,” he said.
The city’s bikeshare system will cost more than $2 million to build, including the bicycles, docking stations and the prep work needed to install them. Various government grants will cover that cost, with the largest being a $1.4 million air quality mitigation grant administered by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Burruss said.
Corps Logistics will be responsible for maintaining and operating the system. Those costs will be covered by sponsorships and payments from riders.
For more information about Citrix Cycle, go to citrixcycle.com/.