Getting around Gilroy may be a little easier in the near future, thanks to a new bike-sharing program that is expected to hit the streets this month.
The Gilroy City Council last week unanimously approved a six-month pilot program with LimeBike, a San Mateo-based company that specializes in offering affordable bike share programs without the need to install infrastructure. Users can pick up and drop off bikes across town without having to worry about returning them to a docking station.
“This is a new, innovative type of program that is being launched in a number of cities in the Bay Area,” City Administrator Gabriel Gonzalez said at the Feb. 26 council meeting. “It is a six-month pilot program that we want to test how it does here in Gilroy in terms of the market.”
Users can walk up to a bike they want to ride and unlock it via the LimeBike mobile app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. After unlocking the bike, a user would ride the bike to their destination, re-lock the bike, and leave it at the destination.
The app requires email and credit card verification prior to use. Anti-theft devices include the weight of the bike (around 48 pounds), an alarm, and GPS tracking.
The first ride is free and goes up to $1 dollar every 30 minutes and 50 cents for students.
“This is a movement continuing in Gilroy right now with a lot of young minds and leaders, city staff, and stakeholders further progressing and ultimately marketing Gilroy as not only a bike-friendly town, but also an innovative town,” Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission Chairman Zachary Hilton said. The commission recommended the six-month pilot program to the city council.
LimeBike has already established itself in Burlingame and San Jose with electric scooters, but Gilroy is the first official city in Santa Clara County to have pedal bikes.The company intends to launch similar bike share programs in Palo Alto and Mountain View in April.
City Engineer Gary Heap said staff would keep up on performance indicators to see how the program is doing, which include tracking response times, app performance and usability, distribution or rebalancing of the bikes, repositioning of bikes, bike usage, complaints, and cost recovery if the city needs to interact or reposition bikes on behalf of LimeBike.
“City staff is being told that the bikes will be positioned at a minimum of every three days,” Heap said. “They will be wiped down and brought back to a central hub location or a location of high use. What is nice about LimeBike is you can take the bike from the train station, ride it home, leave it in the front yard, and then someone else can look on the app, find the bike, go to your front yard and take it somewhere else.”
Outside of the downtown area and train station, locations for bike positioning are still being determined. Potential future hubs and locations will be based on usage data and distribution of the bikes. Around 30 bikes are expected to be placed downtown at the start of the program.
LimeBike employees will rebalance the bikes across popular locations in town and there will be whole teams whose job it is to pick up bikes, according to LimeBike Senior Operations Manager EV Ellington.
Councilman Fred Tovar asked Ellington how LimeBike would decide whether or not to stay in the city at the end of the six-month pilot program.
“The way we measure success is not monetary as much as we have a goal of getting rides,” Ellington said. “If people here in Gilroy are still excited at the end of six months about LimeBike and there is a demonstrated use, that is how we measure success.”