The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, July 01, 2017 1:00 am

City's Bike Share program slashes membership costs

Cody Thompson | The Journal Gazette

Lisa Beringer has used Fort Wayne's Bike Share program three or four times. She likes the convenience.

“It's fun to move through the city in a way that isn't a vehicle,” she said. Beringer, 46, often rides with her son, who she said has outgrown his own bike.

Paul Spoelhof, senior planner for the city of Fort Wayne, said the price of the program was lowered after looking at data from the first season, which didn't attract enough people at the initial annual rate of $60.

The program was launched in April 2016.

“We had no idea how Fort Wayne residents and visitors would respond,” Spoelhof said.

He said they wanted to make annual membership more attractive. Last year, the service had about 900 active members, though about 90 percent of those were hourly members.

Membership to the program has three tiers. The first is a pay-as-you-go rate that charges $3 an hour, the second is a $10 monthly subscription, and the third option is a $30 annual subscription. The monthly and annual memberships offer free one-hour rides before charging $3 for every subsequent hour.

To use this service, one must download the app Zagster, choose a membership plan and create an account. Zagster provided Fort Wayne with bikes to use in six locations. The city is essentially leasing the bikes from Zagster, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Spoelhof said the price drop has resulted in an increased interest in annual membership, though it is too early to give an exact number. The goal is to triple the number from last year. To help, he said the bikes will remain out year-round instead of being removed in November as last year.

“Their annual membership should be an annual membership,” Spoelhof said.

Kent Castleman, 38, has an officewide annual subscription. He's executive director of Fort Wayne Trails, a nonprofit that maintains and develops local trails. The organization's office is in the Auer Center for Arts and Culture on East Main Street. One of the Bike Share stations is just outside its door.

This is the second year that Fort Wayne Trails has become an annual member. It has a companywide login to use the service, but only one person can use the account at a time. Castleman said he often uses it to bike to meetings in town.

“I think it's convenient for quick errands and running to and from things in Fort Wayne, especially with all the construction going on,” he said.

Castleman said the $30 price point is reasonable, but he was also OK with the $60 when he considered how much his staff used the service. He said Zagster's customer service has been helpful with any problems.

Castleman said using Bike Share is more convenient than bringing his bike from home; it's nice to not worry about storage or security throughout the day.

The bike racks in the city are often full, but Spoelhof said the program will expand to support a larger system with more bikes over the next several years to encompass more communities.

“The Bike Share program represents one more mode of transportation,” he said.

cthompson@jg.net

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