I went to the nation’s capital last week and rented a red bike with three gears, sleek black fenders and a bell I never put to use.
Boy, was it fun.
I cruised up and down the National Mall, from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial.
Then I pedaled along the Tidal Basin to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and continued the loop to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials.
That was a blast, too.
Tulsa will never top Washington, D.C., when it comes to historic landmarks. But any day now it’s supposed to have a bike-share program like the one I used to get around D.C. So when I got back to work Monday I tracked down Daniel Sperle, Tulsa Bike Share’s executive director, to get an update on the program.
First let me backpedal a bit. It’s not fair to compare the bike-share program I used in Washington to Tulsa Bike Share. According to Capital Bikeshare’s website, the District of Columbia was the first jurisdiction in the United States to start a bike-share system. That was in 2008. SmartBike DC, as the company was known then, had 120 bikes and 10 stations.
Now it’s massive, serving the entire D.C. metro area and parts of Maryland and Virginia with a network of 3,700 bikes and 440 stations, according to the Capital Bikeshare website.
So, no, this is not a comparison of the two programs. But the ease and convenience with which I was able to get around Washington using Capital Bikeshare made me think how cool it would be to have a bikeshare program in Tulsa.
Phase 1 of Tulsa Bike Share was supposed to launch in the spring. The starting date has been pushed back to the fall to allow time for the bikes to be built, Sperle said, though the system’s branding campaign and website will be rolled out in early July, along with a projected launch date.
“We are currently developing a new name and visual identity for the bike-sharing system,” Sperle said. “We are excited to be developing a unique brand that is representative of Tulsa and the innovative nature of bike-sharing within multimodal transit networks.”
Tulsa Bike Share officials initially planned to begin Phase 1 of operations with 108 bikes and 12 stations within the Inner Dispersal Loop. Those numbers have been increased to 140 and 18, respectively, to improve accessibility and increase ridership capacity.
“The biggest thing is that the equipment we selected actually allows for us to have slightly lower capital costs, so we were able to purchase more bikes and more stations with the money that we already had,” Sperle said.
Phase 2, which could be implemented as early as the fall of 2018, will extend service beyond the IDL and double the number of bikes and bike stations, Sperle said. The University of Tulsa, Cherry Street and Peoria Avenue will each get bike stations in Phase 2.
As will A Gathering Place for Tulsa park.
“We are doing an evaluation right now to determine the number of bike-share stations that would be located on the perimeter of the park,” said Jeff Stava, executive director and trustee of Tulsa’s Gathering Place LLC. “We believe that the park will be a central place within the city along the banks of the river just south of downtown and will be a natural part of the bike-share network as it begins.”
What Tulsa Bike Share officials are not sharing yet are details of how the program will work. What kind of bikes will people ride? What will it cost? And what will the newly branded program be called?
Sperle said that will all be made public next month.
“We are going to do a press release which will announce the vendor that we selected (and) the type of equipment,” he said. “We have all of the locations for stations already decided, and then the biggest thing is just going to be the bikes.”
Capital Bikeshare, for example, promotes itself as a commuter service. I swiped my credit card into a kiosk at a bike station and paid $8 for 24 hours of service. With one catch: If I did not return my bike to a bike station within 30 minutes, I was charged an additional fee.
The idea is to move people short distances as cheaply and conveniently as possible. And it works in D.C. because Capital Bikeshare has so many stations. It’s no problem jumping on a bike a block from Union Station and zipping to a bike station 100 feet from the Lincoln Memorial.
Tulsa Bike Share will address the needs of people traveling short distances, Sperle said, but will also accommodate those people looking to take a longer, more leisurely ride.
“I think a large portion of what people are going to see in Tulsa as far as how they use it is going to be something that they are supplementing the trips made by car within the downtown area,” Sperle said. “So you are going to see people use it to move from one entertainment district to another, run an errand on their lunch rather than using the car or maybe walking a distance they would have originally.
“But, within our pricing structure we will also utilize a similar pricing structure to D.C. to encourage short trips.”
Tulsa has been working to put a bike-share program together since 2014, when the Bike-Share Advisory Committee was created. Tulsa Bike Share was formed in April 2016 as a not-for-profit under the 501(c)3 of Tulsa Tough. It is funded through a variety of sources, including federal grants, private donations, station sponsorships and ridership fees. As part of the Improve Our Tulsa sales tax program, Tulsans approved $250,000 in funding for capital costs.
Sperle has been waiting anxiously for months to unveil Tulsa’s bike-share program, and he says he’s confident Tulsans will like what they see.
I sure hope so. Maybe then I can grab a bike and get my picture taken in front of the Golden Driller.