Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Bike-sharing programs growing in South Florida
Forget the bus. Forget taxis, trolleys or shuttles. The next best thing in public transportation for some people is a bicycle.
Pedaling to the beach, a restaurant or the grocery store is getting easier as bike-sharing programs are increasing in popularity and expanding throughout South Florida.
Broward County’s bike-share program, Broward B-cycle, is in expansion mode, recently add- ing a bike station at the Galleria Mall.
■ In May, West Palm Beach will launch the first bike-share operation in Palm Beach County as SkyBikeWPB opens 15 bike stations in the downtown area. There will be 150 bikes available to rent by the half-hour or the hour.
In December, Miami saw the launch of Citi Bike Miami, following in the steps of Miami Beach’s successful bike-share program that began in 2011. Already, the Miami operation aver- ages 12,000 to 13,000 riders a month, and officials are finding that they need to add more stations to the 35 they already have.
“Increasingly, people want to have as many transportation options as they can,” said Raphael Clemente, executive director of the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, which brought bike sharing to the city. “It’s one more way to get from A to B.”
West Palm Beach’s bike-share
program comes courtesy of Sky Bridge Capital, a New York City-based hedge fund that is the main sponsor.
Sky Bike stations will be installed at popular places throughout downtown, including at the Tri-Rail station, the Palm Beach County Courthouse, the Palm Beach county convention center and several spots in City Place.
Primarily designed for short trips, bike-share programs allow users to pick up a bike at one spot and leave it at another. They can pedal around town to run errands, go to nightspots, to restaurants or to work.
Downtown West Palm Beach workers could hop on a Sky Bike rather than walk to their favorite lunch spot. Or persons heading to the city for business could travel by Tri-Rail and then grab a Sky Bike to get to their final destination.
It’s part of the city’s ongoing effort to make the downtown pedestrian- and bike-friendly and a place where a car isn’t necessarily needed.
“If you live and work here, it is so convenient not to have to use your car,” Clemente said.
That’s particularly appealing to young people who are flocking to downtowns and gravitating toward alternative transportation, Clemente said.
Take Jesus Fuentes, who lives in downtown Fort Lauderdale and has been a B-cycle member since the program started in 2011. He and his wife use the bikes on the weekend for entertainment.
“We ride it around New River or to Holiday Park,” he said. “During the weekend, we go to the movies using the bikes.”
A public transportation advocate, Fuentes takes Tri-Rail to work and rarely drives a car.
“I don’t drive or I will go crazy,” he said. “Millennials tend not to want to drive.”
So while he enjoys B-cycle, he wishes it had more stations so it could be more of a transportation option for residents.
For instance, his neighborhood, Flagler Village, has pushed for a B-cycle station. He also thinks Fort Lauderdale City Hall would be a perfect spot.
B-cycle is considering those sites as well as many others, said Jeff Torkelson, Broward B-cycle’s manager.
There are two new locations at Fort Lauderdale Beach. Soon, stations will be installed at Las Olas Boulevard and 10th Terrace, and eventually there will be bike stations in the western areas of the county.
“We definitely have a plan to continue to grow the system,” Torkelson said. “The more stations we can put in, the better the connections are and the easier it is to use as transporta- tion.”
Right now B-cycle has 23 stations with 150 bikes that generate 3,000 to 5,000 riders a month. Every week, Torkelson receives requests from residents and businesses asking for B-cycle stations to be installed near them.
“A lot of people are embracing it,” Torkelson said.
Miami Beach can vouch for that.
Its pioneering program has had about 4.5 million riders since it began, according to Citi Bike Miami. The program has been embraced by residents and tourists alike.
West Palm Beach would like to aspire to that kind of success, Clemente said.
“There are already requests for the program to expand before we’ve launched,” he said. “Folks outside the downtown area are asking, ‘When do we get this?’ ”
Bike-share programs may eventually end up in southern Palm Beach County as well. Delray Beach has considered starting a bike-share program. A couple of years ago, B-cycle installed one of its stations at the beach for a few days to test whether people would use it. There were only a few users.
The city wants to have a complete bike-lane network before novice bike riders start renting bikes, said John Morgan, who is responsible for the city’s environmental initiatives.
“It’s definitely in the mix of things we want to do,” he said. “We will get a bikeshare program. It’s a matter of time. It’s not going to be a long time.” email@example.com, 561-243-6537 or Twitter @adstreeter