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Politics

Tampa bike-share program delayed until August

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Published:   |   Updated: May 12, 2014 at 10:21 PM

— Tampa’s bike-share program, which was supposed to open this month, won’t roll out until August, the developers have told city officials.

It’s the second delay for the program that was announced last year.

CycleHop, the company that operates Coast Bike Share, has asked Tampa City Council for a four-month extension on the agreement that lets the company operate on the city’s streets and sidewalks. Council members will vote on the change at their meeting Thursday.

In his letter to the city, CycleHop CEO Josh Squire said the delay is needed to upgrade the system’s bicycles. The bikes have been developed by Social Bicycles.

“CycleHop expects that the equipment will be ready for delivery and implementation four to eight weeks after the anticipated implementation dates,” Squire wrote to city officials.

Coast Bike Share spokesman Eric Trull was unavailable on Monday.

Trull and Squire were on hand in January when Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled the name and other details of the bike-share program. At the time, the developers said the program would be up and running by spring with 300 bikes spread from Ybor City to Hyde Park.

In his April 8 letter to the city, Squire included a progress report: the company’s website is finished, as are designs for rental kiosks and bike racks. The company is 80 percent finished with arranging locations for rental sites, he wrote.

CycleHop is also negotiating with a national bank about becoming the program’s main sponsor -- something the program has lacked. New York’s program, for example, is underwritten by Citibank.

Tampa is Social Bicycle’s first large-scale project after tests in Buffalo, N.Y., and several towns in New Jersey.

CycleHop and Social Bicycles won over city officials after Buckhorn put out a call for proposals to start a bike-share program here. The city has no stake in the program, other than allowing it to operate on the public rights of way.

The bikes, which are assembled in Taiwan, are designed by Social Bicycles to be sturdy and resistant to vandalism. They have front baskets for carrying items, headlights and taillights for night-time use and a driveshaft instead of a chain to keep greasy messes to a minimum.

CycleHop plans to roll out the bike-share system starting with about 70 bikes and instructions on how to use the system. Soon after, it will add 230 more bikes to Tampa’s streets.

Over 2015 and 2016, the program will add hundreds of more bikes and expand to include the West Shore area and the student-heavy neighborhoods around the University of South Florida.

Tampa’s bike share differs from bike-share programs in cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., because GPS and mobile sales technology have been built directly into each bike. Elsewhere, that technology is built into the large kiosks that house the bikes.

It’s that technology that has been upgraded, forcing the delay, the developers told the city.

Each bike will have a device mounted above the back fender that will let users activate the bike and pay for their ride. CycleHop told the city late last year, it expected to have those upgraded interfaces by April.

Bike-share proponents are taking the delay in stride.

“This is an important program to us, and we want it to be successful,” said Ali Glisson, the mayor’s spokeswoman. “Bottom line, that’s not going to happen unless the software works. In the end, we’re getting a better product, and are looking forward to a successful launch later this summer.”

Donna Chen, spokeswoman for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, said the delay gives her group and Coast Bike Share more time to promote the program.

“Whenever the launch date, we expect the bike-share service to be well received and in high demand,” Chen said.

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7871

Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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