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Warren County exploring bike-sharing program

Warren County exploring bike-sharing program

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A program that allows people to share bikes could be coming to Warren County in the spring.

The county is looking to do a pilot program to expand the CDPHP Cycle! ride service, which is currently available in Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, Albany, Troy and Cohoes.

Representatives from the Warren County Employment and Training Administration, Greater Glens Falls Transit and the Capital District Transportation Authority are working on the project.

Lindsey Garney, mobility manager for CDTA, said the program is going into the fifth year and has grown steadily.

The number of rides has increased from 11,000 in 2017 to 41,500 in 2019, according to Garney.

The program usually starts in April, but didn’t start until June last year because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Still, the program ended up getting 38,000 rides.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a big interest in cycling.

“We saw a massive spike in bike usage, interest in people riding their own bikes, as well as using our bike share system as a healthy alternative to staying inside their homes,” she said.

The program has 400 pedal-powered bikes at 85 locations in those five cities. There have been over 100,000 rides over four seasons and there are 18,500 enrolled members, according to Garney.

It would start with 20 bikes and focus primarily on Glens Falls and Queensbury and branching out from there. About $25,000 in start-up costs are needed.

Mobility Cloud performs the work on the bikes. Steve Bratspis, operations manager for Mobility Cloud, said Warren County is a great opportunity for expansion with its access to the bike path.

This is a nonprofit enterprise. Bratspis said for-profit companies end up targeting the large markets.

“Small and mid-size communities are left out because they do not have the density of users to create profit,” he said.

People can sign up for the program using the CDPHP Cycle! mobile app. They can find a bike close by. They scan the bar code to unlock the bike.

“Bikes are not required to return to the bike rack where it was rented from, so it is designed for one-way trips, for door to door trips, what we would refer to as last mile trips,” he said.

At the end of the trip, people can lock the bike at any of the station docks or at any bike rack or attach it using the lock to a fixed public object, according to Bratspis.

Bikes are sanitized after use, according to Bratspis. There are also small bottles of sanitizer that are attached to the bikes that people can use before, during and after the ride.

He said the company goes around and redistributes bikes to where they are needed. Bikes are inspected every 150 miles or every month because how frequently they are used.

Rates are $5 per hour to rent the bike, $15 for a monthly pass and $50 for a seasonal pass. There are also 50% discounts for students.

Among one of the concerns expressed in the public comment period was competition with private business.

Gina Mintzer, president of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Marc Mularz told her he is concerned that this would compete with the bike rental part of his Beach Road Bait and Tackle Shop business.

Bratspis said it is a different market.

“These are clearly road bikes. We do not have knobby tires. They’re not meant to be on trails. We don’t have the flexibility or versatility in our bike fleet to offer recreational riders all the opportunities they want,” he said.

Garney said before the program was launched in other locations, they talked to bike shops and did not receive any major negative feedback. She was not aware of any businesses being hurt by the program.

EDC Warren County President Jim Siplon did not see a conflict.

“These are components of the same transformation ecosystem and they’re designed to meet different needs,” he said.

Access to recreation was a big component in a recently survey of people considering moving to the area, according to Siplon. He said the program is about growing the cycling market overall.

“Whenever this kind of investment is made, there is an overall increase in ridership, there is an overall increase in demand,” he said.

Liza Ochsendorf, Warren County’s director of employment and training, said the idea of bringing a ride-sharing program to the region has been around for years, maybe even decades.

Previous research has shown that it would be very expensive, according to Ochsendorf.

“If we were to start our own program, it would be well over $100,000 and probably even more because of the demand for bikes now,” she said. “The $25,000 investment, (which) covers the marketing, the operations, the maintenance and everything, is a steal and a bargain that we probably cannot get anywhere else. This has been operating successfully already, so it makes no sense to reinvent the wheel.”

County officials liked the idea and were going to discuss it further at committee meetings. Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said he believes it could be a situation where the county and communities such as Glens Falls, Queensbury and the town or village of Lake George contribute to the cost.

Siplon said he would like to see some private investment as well.

Reach Michael Goot at 518-742-3320 or mgoot@poststar.com and follow his blog poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.

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