(Orlando, Fla. -- WMFE) The train could bring in the bikes. The regional transportation planning agency MetroPlan Orlando is considering starting a bike share program to roll out alongside the SunRail train service under construction. The commuter train line is seen as a catalyst for cycling, with the potential to locate bike share kiosks around the stations along the 61 mile rail line. Other locations in consideration for bike share programs include the University of Central Florida and International Drive in Orlando.
Some cities like Orlando and Winter Park, are already researching bike sharing. But Mighk (pronounced Mike) Wilson, who leads the MetroPlan bike share working group, says it makes more sense to have a region wide system.
“You don’t want to have the user sign up for a program, let’s say in the city of Orlando, and then go sign up for another program maybe in Altamonte, and then have all that redundancy,” he says.
"Instead they should be able to hop on a bike anywhere in the Central Florida area, all under the same membership and fee structure."
The working group held its first meeting Wednesday.
Wilson says he doesn't know if bike share will be up and running in Central Florida by the time SunRail starts in 2014. "What we haven't really determined yet is, are we going to move forward with a bike share program," he says. "We still need to answer a number of questions before we make that commitment." Wilson says one of the first steps will be to put out a Request For Information from bike share companies.
Orlando already put out its own RFI, and three companies responded: Wisconsin based B-Cycle; Deco Bike, which has programs in South Florida and New York; and the Southern California based Bike Nation.
Winter Park Sustainability coordinator Tim Maslow says setting up a region-wide bike share program could take longer than it would for an individual city- but he's willing to wait.
"I think the investment in time will pay off in the end," he says. "Maybe we could roll it out in three to six months, but I think it would be worse if we tried to expedite it on our own and then people who were traveling to and from Winter Park, Orlando and surrounding areas were using different systems and they had to get different memberships."
The other benefit of setting up a bigger system is a bigger funding pool. "If it was just city-wide, we would have to foot the bill not only just for bicycles and the stations, which could be a pretty hefty investment, but the city would have to assume the risk and liability and operation of that system," Maslow says. "I'm not sure we have the resources or the staff time."
Maslow says he's still hopeful bike sharing can roll out at the same time as SunRail. He says Winter Park is also making plans to accommodate private bike owners, and the city is in talks with the architects designing the new train station about a potential covered bike storage facility near the station.
A hundred miles west of Orlando, in St. Petersburg, plans are also underway for bike sharing. MyBike founder Andrew Blikken aims to use a system developed by the New York based company SoBi., which does away with the need for kiosks. The bikes include an on-board computer and can be locked up anywhere: riders can use their smartphones to locate a bike, unlock it and pay for its use.
MyBike was slated to launch in July with 500 bicycles, but Blikken says he's still trying to raise money for the program.
"There is not a bank on the planet that considers bikes collateral," he says.
"So that means debt financing is basically not possible for something like this. However, equity financing is. We have found a number of people who are very interested in putting down smaller amounts. We have a quarter million dollars towards our million dollar goal in our subscription agreement so far."
Blikken says he's looking for a major sponsor to get myBike off the ground. He says once he gets the capital it will be six months at least before his program will be operational.
Meanwhile in Orlando, another start up company is trying to generate interest in a bike share program using the same technology.
SunCycles founder Peter Martinez says he's in talks with SoBi, and he's also looking for people to invest in his company.