Say hello to "GRID" bikes.
This morning, city of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton helped unveil the logo and name of the bicycle-renting program expected to launch by early next year. The bikes are bright green, sport a girly-basket on the handlebars, and come with a high-tech locking system to prevent theft.
The best part of the program, as far as we're concerned, is that officials say taxpayers won't spend a dime on it -- and that the city will share in expected profits in years to come.
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CycleHop, a Miami-based bike rental company that has similar programs in other cities, will take care of the capital investment for the bikes and stations, says Phoenix spokesman Matt Heil. "We are not putting any money into the system," he says. The city's just providing the right-of-way and space for the stations.
Five hundred bikes will be placed in Phoenix, and another 500 in Mesa and Tempe. Riders will make a rental reservation from their tablets or smartphones, paying five bucks an hour, $30 a month, or signing up for annual fees ranging initially from $79 to $99.
CycleHop still doesn't have sponsors for the Phoenix program, acknowledged local public relations man Robbie Sherwood. The "title sponsor" will likely be allowed to put their company's brand name on the bikes' white basket, Sherwood says.
Once GRID's up and running, stations will be located along the light-rail corridor and high-employment areas, officials say. Students, light-rail riders, commuters and tourists are among the expected user groups.
Of course, in a town where meth users rip open air conditioners for a few bucks' worth of scrap metal, the bikes could end up disappearing despite their "solar-powered, GPS-enabled" locks. A "bike sharing" program launched in Paris six years ago is now facing massive problems with theft and vandalism.
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We're also skeptical the bikes will hold up well as they're sitting nearly unused, baking under intense solar radiation for four months of the year.
Good luck with that, CycleHop.
On a related note, Phoenix is now in the process of developing a new bicycle master plan, of which the rental program will play a part. New bicycle lanes are likely to be built in coming years as the city tries to make itself more bicycle-friendly. Two more public hearings on the plan are being held this month. Click here for more info.