Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Bike-shar­ing pro­grams grow­ing in South Florida

- MICHAEL LAUGHLIN/STAFF By An­gel Streeter Staff writer

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.” as­treeter@tribpub.com, 561-243-6537 or Twit­ter @ad­streeter

 ??  ?? Madi­son Leitch, right, and her mother, Janet, ride near Gal­le­ria Mall on bikes pro­vided by Broward B-cy­cle.
Madi­son Leitch, right, and her mother, Janet, ride near Gal­le­ria Mall on bikes pro­vided by Broward B-cy­cle.

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