The long-anticipated bike share program is finally rolling in Baton Rouge, a city where Gotcha—the South Carolina company that launched program—hopes to effect change.
The effort to bring bike share to Baton Rouge has been years in the making, despite the city’s lack of bike-friendly infrastructure and a reputation as a dangerous place to ride.
But for Gotcha—which has been operating multimodal transportation systems across the U.S. for 10 years—those obstacles only serve as further proof Baton Rouge is in need of alternative modes of transportation that could change the narrative.
“We try to focus on cities and universities that we can kind of put our arms around, that have real needs in terms of mobility,” says Gotcha CEO Sean Flood. “Can we actually effect change? Is it a good fit? Baton Rouge checked all of those boxes.”
Not only that, Baton Rouge has a core group of stakeholders committed to bringing bike share to the city, Flood says, and is home to “two major universities and a high-density downtown.”
Last fall, the city-parish awarded the five-year bike share contract to Gotcha—one of four firms vying for the deal—for $800,000, the majority of which is funded via a federal grant. The launch of the program has been delayed several times since March, most recently because Gotcha had to redesign locking elements on the bikes, Flood says.
Critics, meanwhile, question whether Baton Rouge is right for bike share as the city has not been considered a typically bike-friendly location. While officials are working to bring more bike paths to Baton Rouge, cyclists are often limited to where they can ride.
The area has also seen its fair share of bicycle accidents and fatalities. And last summer, late councilman Buddy Amoroso, a bike share proponent, was killed in a bicycle accident in St. Francisville.
Launching bike share in Baton Rouge, says Flood, will bring awareness to and potentially help solve some of these issues.
“Infrastructure for shared mobility is paramount, but you can’t wait until it comes because it’ll never come,” he says.
In terms of safety, getting more people riding bikes will also change perspectives, Flood says, as they learn how to not only ride safely but become more aware of cyclists while they’re driving vehicles. He adds that over the last 10 years, only two people have been killed on bike share, one each in New York and Chicago.
“What drew us to Baton Rouge was that the city was progressive enough to say we need this,” Flood says. “You need to have alternative modes of transportation before you ask someone to not drive their cars.”
Gotcha, its partners and Mayor Sharon Weston Broome will host a press conference and official public launch July 11 at Live Oak Plaza at North Boulevard Town Square.