Bike share to launch around downtown Salem this month

Cyclists on the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge in Summer 2018. (Salem Reporter files)

Scores of new bicycles — and new bike riders — may soon be spotted darting around downtown Salem, as a long-planned bike sharing program is poised to launch.

Ride Salem will launch this month, city officials said, though the exact date hasn’t been confirmed. Staff say a soft launch could occur June 15, followed by a June 22 full launch. Osborne Adventures, the Salem company helming the program, could not be reached for comment.

News of the launch first came in a brief update from City Manager Steve Powers. Mayor Chuck Bennett told Salem Reporter he is excited bike sharing is finally getting into gear.

 “It’s taken a while to get it kind of pulled together. I think it’s just one more cool thing going on in Salem,” he said.

At launch there will be four bike stations where riders can find bikes for rentals, and two more locations proposed, according to Ride Salem’s website. Locations are posted below.

To rent, riders will use an app or text 202-999-3924 to acquire a code to unlock the bikes from the stations. Renting costs $1.50 for half an hour and bikes can be rented for up to an hour straight, Ride Salem’s website says.

Bike riders can also pay for annual plans. One plan is available for general riders, paying $25 per year rentals up to two hours per day; and another is available for students and businesses, paying $15 a year for one-hour rentals. Both plans charge $2 per hour when daily time is up.

When the first bikes are unlocked, it will mark the start of a program that first started being discussed about three years ago, Bennett said. He said those leading the effort have worked hard.

“Bicycling in Salem really has strong support in the community, with really active cyclists,” Bennett said.

Anthony Gamallo, senior transportation planner at the city of Salem, said at least some of the wait was because the city hasn’t run a bike sharing program before.

“When it came to putting them in public places, city-owned areas, finding the right location took some time,” Gamallo said.

The city of Salem signed its agreement with Zagster, the Massachusetts firm that manufactures the bikes and runs the app, last November, city records show. The city is not paying anything, Gamallo said.

Ride Salem will be the first bike sharing program in Salem and the first new, modern transportation change in Salem since Uber and Lyft arrived in 2017.

“It offers, sort of like Uber and Lyft, an alternative transportation to using an automobile,” Bennett said. “This just adds another dimension for folks who want to try it out but don’t want to buy a bike.”

Salem has also drawn some attention from e-scooter companies, but those efforts have not taken off.

For the downtown area, cyclists using Ride Salem could also be just the latest sign of a changing downtown, which is set to welcome new apartments and a new hotel in the coming years. Gamallo said he could see tourists to Salem using them.

“Our parks system is really robust and it’s great if you’re a cyclist,” he said. “For folks that might be in town for a short period of time, maybe staying a hotel downtown and wanting to tour the park, a great way to do it would be to rent one of these bikes for an hour or two and ride around.”

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.

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