AUSTIN — Admitting the Red Bike Program in Austin did not meet the city’s needs, Steve Kime, chairman of the program, advised the Austin City Council Monday night he’s found a better biking solution.
“It did not work the way we wanted it to,” Kime said of the program that started in 2016.
The program, which took old adult bicycles and refurbished them, made bikes available for use at several area locations around town. Riders were asked to return the bikes to the red racks from which they started, if possible. Kime said the program relied on individuals returning the bikes so they would be available for the next user.
The problem with the program is it had no accountability, Kime said, and bikes would be found scattered around town, and people looking for a bike to use would often show up to empty bike racks.
Now, Kime said, the bike share program has received a pair of grants as well as individual donations to purchase six used Koloni Share bikes. The advantage of the Koloni Share bikes, he said, is they have a locking mechanism on the back wheel and can be traced by GPS location.
A credit card, charging a nominal charge, is used to unlock the bike, and the bike is considered “returned” if it is brought back to a designated area. Kime suggested designating the area near the Red Bike rack at the Spam Museum.
“There’s no funding from the city needed,” Kime said. “We do need approval from the city to locate them near the Spam Museum to see how it works.”
Because the item was not on the city council agenda, the council cannot formally approve the request until the next council meeting, but Mayor Tom Stiehm did ask the council to give its tentative approval, which it did.
The six bikes cost $490 apiece, Kime said, a low cost considering new ones normally run $1,500 apiece. Each bike also requires a $15-a-month fee for the software that tracks the bikes via GPS and unlocks the bikes via the Koloni Share smartphone app that users can download to rent a bike.
Council Member Laura Helle said because the bikes would require a smartphone and a credit card, it might make the program unavailable to those in the lowest income brackets in Austin.
“There’s a whole portion of the population that’ll never have a card to swipe and never have a smartphone,” she said.