New downtown bike-share program launches

A group of co-workers from Trans Pacific Oil rented bikes through the BikeShareICT program and picked up pizza for lunch. (May 5, 2017)
A group of co-workers from Trans Pacific Oil rented bikes through the BikeShareICT program and picked up pizza for lunch. (May 5, 2017) The Wichita Eagle

Bike lovers and downtown dwellers, take note: A new bike-sharing program launched on Thursday.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said the BikeShareICT program will place 100 bikes at 19 stations throughout the city, focused in the downtown core.

“I can’t wait to see people riding around Wichita (and) enjoying our city on this bike share,” Longwell said. “This is really what makes Wichita a special place.”

You can pay a $3 hourly rate or buy a $30 annual membership to use a bike. Memberships are $20 for college students.

The program was sponsored by groups such as the Knight Foundation and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

“We think it’s an important part of our mission in Kansas,” said Andrew Corbin, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, which contributed $194,000 for bikes and marketing support for the program’s first year. “Yes, we have an ulterior motive. The ulterior motive is better health.”

Health ICT initially submitted an application to the Wichita Community Foundation to get pilot funding for the first 20 bikes, said Becky Tuttle, the group’s project manager.

“To have a really well-operating system, it needs to be robust enough that people can get to different places,” Tuttle said. “We thought a lot about where people work downtown and where the highest concentration of employment is. We thought about where people live downtown. And we thought about where people go.

“BikeShareICT enhances the community efforts to increase biking and walking,” she said. “It helps with economic development. It helps with retaining and attracting young talent.”

City officials attended the Thursday morning launch event at the Pop-Up Urban Park on Douglas, with City Council members Lavonta Williams and Pete Meitzner taking the bikes for a spin. Two other stations at Douglas and Water and the downtown YMCA will soon open.

The program uses Zagster, which provides bike-share programs in Corpus Christi, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; Fort Collins, Colo.; and other cities. It’s also used on college campuses such as Duke, Purdue and Ohio State.

“Things like this really do put us on par with bigger cities as a place to move to,” council member James Clendenin said. “I keep bumping into people all the time that are saying that very thing to me.

“This just makes quality of life in Wichita that much richer,” he added.

Clendenin said the number of stations is a “really good start” but that the concept could be expanded on the city’s bike trails outside downtown.

“We’ll see how this takes off.”

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