Pittsburgh's Healthy Ride bike-sharing program to expand
December 19, 2016 12:00 AM
A Healthy Ride bike at a docking station in front of Dunkin' Donuts at Market Square.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh’s Healthy Ride bike-sharing system has received a $200,000 state grant to expand the number of stations it operates by 50 percent.
The program, which began about 18 months ago, has 50 stations across the city where riders can rent bicycles at one location, ride to another and leave the bike there. It will use the money from the state’s Multimodal Transportation Fund to increase the number of stations to 75, said Erin Potts, marketing director of the nonprofit Pittsburgh Bike Share that runs the program.
Since Healthy Ride began in May 2015, it has had more than 40,000 registered users, Ms. Potts said. They range from commuters who use a bike to ride to work to visitors to the city and patrons of the trail system.
Stations located near trails generally are the most popular, but the busiest single corridor is between 10th Street and Penn Avenue in Downtown and 21st and Penn in the Strip District. The most popular times for rental are between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The system works like this: riders register their credit card online, at a kiosk, on the bike’s on-board computer or by calling customer service. Riders who pay as they go are charged $2 for every 30 minutes that they have the bike, but the program also has about 250 riders who have registered on a monthly basis for unlimited use.
“Ours is one of the most inexpensive bike-share programs in the country for pay as you go,” Ms. Potts said.
More than 40 similar programs operate across the country, most of which began operation since 2010.
The program keeps a close watch on the condition and location of the bikes.
Each of the 500 bikes — all heavy-duty — is brought in on a monthly basis for maintenance, more frequently if problems arise. The program employs a team that checks stations at least daily to “rebalance” the system by moving bikes from one station to another if a site becomes empty or full.
“We don’t often see stations that get completely empty or full,” Ms. Potts said. “That typically happens in large events [such as the Three Rivers Regatta or Three Rivers Arts Festival] when there are a lot of people Downtown.”
The program has had almost no problem with bikes being stolen because users are registered and each bike has a GPS chip to locate it if it isn’t returned properly.
For the winter, when fewer riders are expected, the system only has 300 bikes available.
Ms. Potts said the program is “really excited” about using the grant to expand, but the exact location of new stations, when they might be deployed and how many more bikes will be available won’t be decided until the grant money arrives. The program is sponsored by Highmark and the Allegheny Health System, but it expects to add more sponsors as it expands.
Kristen Saunders, Pittsburgh’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said the program offers another transportation option in the city. It’s especially popular for those traveling three miles or less.
“I think the more types of options like this you have, the less likely people will be to use their own car,” she said. “People are really willing to take a bike if it’s available and the trip is three miles or less.”
Ed Blazina: email@example.com or 412-263-1470.
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