TAMPA — Tampa’s planned bike-share program is likely to start early next year, not next month as Mayor Bob Buckhorn had originally hoped.
“It was a very optimistic time frame when we signed on,” said Andrew Blikken, program manager for Tampa Bay Bike Share, the company that will run the bike-rental business on city streets.
The program still has several hurdles to get over:
• It needs to get approval from the city’s Barrio Latino Commission for rental sites in Ybor City.
• It needs to get permits from the city for building stations on the public right of way.
• It needs to find a corporate sponsor to underwrite the program.
“We’re still trying to pin down a large sponsor,” Blikken said.
The program hopes to land a deep-pocketed sponsor who can put “a couple million dollars” into the system over a five-year period. In New York City, which has its own bike-share program, Citibank sponsored the system. The bikes there carry the Citi logo.
Blikken said his company is approaching regional companies — banks, “a grocery store” and others — looking for sponsorship.
Buckhorn has billed the bike-share program as a way to make downtown Tampa more inviting to full-time residents and tourists.
Tampa, along with Orlando, routinely ranks at the top of the nation’s list of cities most dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.
Cyclists say putting more bikes on the streets will actually make the area safer by increasing the visibility of cyclists. In the meantime, Tampa is adding bike lanes to streets. A federally funded greenway is in the works beneath the Selmon Expressway linking downtown and Ybor City.
The bike-share program will feature heavy-duty bicycles made to be impervious to thieves and vandals, yet accessible with the swipe of a credit card.
The bike developer, Social Bicycling, has a new generation of bikes under construction in Taiwan. That’s adding to the delay, Blikken said.
In a statement released Wednesday, Tampa Bay Bike Share officials said they’re looking for business owners willing to host a bike station. They’ll hold public meetings in November to discuss possible locations for the stations.
Buckhorn said this week he’s willing to give Tampa Bay Bike Share time to get itself together.
“We had an ambitious start time,” he said, “but I’d rather do it right.”
When he announced the program, Buckhorn stressed that the city would provide the public right of way, but the rest would be up to private companies.
He said Wednesday he may consider putting the weight of the city behind the effort to get the program the jump-start it needs.
“I’ll talk to them,” he said.