Baton Rouge bike share roll-out pushed to early spring

    The long-awaited Baton Rouge bike share program has been delayed until 2018, with a possible February or March roll-out in downtown, LSU and Southern University.

    The first phase of the bike share program—through which riders can pay for short-term rental bicycles at stalls throughout the city—originally had been set to roll out this fall, with expansions in Mid City and the Health District after that.

    “We could have launched in December, but we chose to say that’s not a good launch time,” Bike Share Director Lindsey West said today after her speech at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge. “We’re pushing it six months to get a better product. I think that’s worth it.”

    Industry innovations are partly to blame for the delay: West says she hopes to secure the latest equipment—including several hundred electric pedal assist bikes.

    In all, more than 800 bikes will be available at 82 bike docking stations throughout the city if the plan moves forward. The first phase will bring 510 bikes and 51 stations in downtown and the surrounding areas. Mid City will get 250 bikes after that, and the burgeoning health district will get 60 after that.

    Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s office is committed to making the project happen, West says. Former Mayor Kip Holden identified funding on his way out of office, and West said that money remains available. However, the total cost of the project remains unknown.

    The city-parish will send the proposal out to bid in the coming weeks, West adds, and will bring options to the Metro Council sometime after that.

    Broome’s office did not respond to questions before this afternoon’s publication.

    New Orleans has partnered with the Brooklyn-based company Social Bicycles and will roll out its service this fall. If Baton Rouge selects the same company, West says it will be easier to offer compatible memberships between the two cities.

    Baton Rouge bikes might have GPS and an app allowing riders to track their routes and calories burned. Other possible features include rankings and challenges between users, bike reservations and automatic diagnostics for repairs.

    “We’ve thought of everything,” West says.

    Typically, users pay around $6 per day or a yearly membership fee of around $75 to use the bike share systems.

    Business leaders and officials at the Baton Rouge Area Foundation have hailed bike share as an economic development engine, as well as a way to get cars off the road and help improve Louisiana’s dismal health outcomes.

    Davis Rhorer, director of the Downtown Development District, says he hopes it can attract a diverse group of people to downtown and connect the area with the universities.

    “This dovetails so well with our Greenway initiatives,” Rhorer says, citing the pedestrian walkways being built throughout downtown. “I see a lot of use for it.”

    —Sam Karlin

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