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August 30, 2015

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Joe Downtown: Bike-share program almost ready to hit the streets

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Jude Stanion is a Downtown Project employee responsible for the bike-share program.

Click to enlarge photo

A photovoltaic cell behind the seat powers a global positioning system on the bikes in the bike-sharing program.

A few bikes with back-end solar panels are on the street now, but only as tryouts.

During the first week of January, a bike-share program targeting Zappos employees who work downtown will be formally unveiled.

Jude Stanion, a Downtown Project employee responsible for the bike-share program, said the bikes from ViaCycle cost about $2,000 each and will be equipped with chains that registered riders can unlock with their phones.

An on-bike global positioning system device – not pedal assistance, though – is powered by a photovoltaic cell behind the seat.

Using a bike would work like this: You’d see on your phone or computer the location of a bike (several bike racks would be registered, first downtown); go to a bike and type in a number on your phone to unlock the chain; ride the bike to another registered bike station; chain the bike and go on your way.

People would register with a credit card and a fee would be charged. All the details aren’t worked out yet, but Stanion wants a progressive pricing system with rents much lower for locals than for out-of-state users. Nothing is set in stone.

Eventually, Stanion said, the idea is to propagate the program throughout the city.

“I’d love to see 100 out here,” said Stanion, a 22-year-old University of North Carolina graduate who moved to Las Vegas this fall as a Venture for America fellow working for Downtown Project.

Stanion said he was pleasantly surprised at how receptive local politicians and government staff were to the idea.

“The city and Regional Transportation Commission (of Southern Nevada) are pushing forward a bike agenda, putting in new bike lanes and bike racks downtown,” he said.

He admitted that the biggest fear for bicyclists was safety. Las Vegas was designed for cars, not bikes.

“Las Vegas is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to pedestrian deaths, and we really do have a lot of bad drivers and drunk drivers, but it’s also a failure of the public infrastructure that there aren’t adequate sidewalks and crosswalks – and local governments know this,” he said.

Work is needed, Stanion figures, to slow vehicles. It's an idea that “runs counter to what planners have done here for decades … what you get are people driving 10 to 20 mph over the speed limit.”

Eventually, he’d like to see the bike-share program as “a small piece of a much larger paradigm: You have more people on bikes, fewer driving and you turn downtown Vegas into a place where you expect to see someone on a bike. There are cities where drivers check to see if there are people on bikes. We’re not there yet.”

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