A lot of fanfare surrounded the announcement that a bike share program will be coming to Pittsburgh next year, but a small borough just a few miles from the city is already ahead of the game.
Verona launched a bike share program in August after it received a $4,000 grant from the Allegheny County Health Department and purchased 10 Trek mountain bikes in various sizes. The bikes are housed at Dirty Harry's, a bike shop on Allegheny River Boulevard.
"It's been a great opportunity for, say, a family that wants to test the waters and see if this is for them or not," said Barry Jeffries, owner of Dirty Harry's.
The idea was conceived by Mr. Jeffries and Robert Geiselhart, owner of No Limits Sports Performance, a training facility also on Allegheny River Boulevard. Council OK'd the grant, which was to be used for something to promote health in the community.
Other communities have brought in medical staffs to conduct evaluations and encourage healthy living, Mr. Geiselhart said, but he wanted something that would last longer than one-time evaluations. They discussed the possibility of purchasing kayaks because Verona is on the river, but there were concerns about monitoring, storing and maintaining the kayaks.
Instead, they launched the bike share. Mr. Jeffries maintains the bikes and operates the program out of Dirty Harry's. Any resident of Allegheny County can borrow a bike for up to three days -- all that's required is a driver's license and credit card information. Users also receive a water bottle and a helmet.
Mr. Jeffries said the program has been well-received so far, and Mr. Geiselhart said the borough hopes to promote the program more this spring because it didn't start until late last summer.
Mr. Geiselhart said he has taken out bikes himself, and he believes the program "helps bring people into our community."
Rhoda Gemellas-Worf, a Verona councilwoman, said she hopes the program will be an inspiration for people who might not have a bike to get exercise.
"In the long run, it's beneficial" for people who are trying to be more aware of good nutrition and exercise, she said.
For more information about the bike share program, call Dirty Harry's at 412-828-2667 or visit www.veronaborough.com.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.