Wednesday, May 10, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Kelly Fairchild has used bike share to get from Container Park to the Downtown Grand more times than he can count. But last Thursday was special.
On that day, an employee of the Regional Transportation Commission, which owns and operates the system, was waiting for him at the docking station with balloons, a gift certificate and cupcakes. The cause for celebration: Fairchild had just unknowingly taken the bike-share system’s 10,000th ride.
“It was a very cool surprise,” Fairchild says.
RTC launched its bike share in downtown Las Vegas last October. Users can purchase single-ride passes, 24-hour passes or 30-day memberships that allow them to pick up one of 180 identical bicycles from one of 21 solar-powered docking stations strategically placed around the neighborhood. Rides can last for up to 30 minutes before users are charged overage fees. Bicycles may be returned to any dock.
Almost all major metropolitan cities in the United States have a bike share, including New York City’s Citi Bike, Chicago’s Divvy and Phoenix’s GRID. These systems are designed for short trips in urban cores where driving is inconvenient or expensive. Often, systems complement existing public transit like the subway or light rail.
After seven months in operation, the data is starting to come in about who is using the Las Vegas system — and how often.
“We are very pleased,” says RTC Bicycle and Outreach Coordinator Ron Floth. “Every system is different, but we are happy with where we are right now.”
According to Floth, bike-share users have ridden more than 26,000 miles and burned off more than a million calories. And just who is riding may surprise some people: 35 percent of users are tourists. The majority — 65 percent — are locals, like Fairchild.
Fairchild owns Las Vegas Walking Tours. After he has completed one walking tour, he hops onto bike share and rides back to the starting point before his next tour begins. He and his wife also use the system to get around downtown on their free time because it’s easier than finding and paying for parking.
“Bike share is a reflection of the change in downtown,” Fairchild says. “Having it will help develop downtown. It helps tourists see downtown as a vibrant area because other urban centers have it, and even though we don’t have a super-dense population of people living downtown, (locals) are still visiting too.”
That is just the sentiment the RTC is hoping for.
“Bike share encourages downtown living and facilitates being downtown,” Floth says.
It's also generally accepted in the bike-share industry that these systems help normalize seeing bicycles for drivers, making them more likely to notice cyclists of all kinds and keep roadways safer. Floth says there have been no accidents or injuries related to the shared bikes since the launch last fall.
Over the past few years, the city has pushed to make downtown Las Vegas more bike-friendly by adding dedicated bike lanes. Floth sees bike share as a natural extension of that and hopes the system continues to gain popularity.
“It’s simple and easy and fun for everyone,” he says.
May is National Bike Month. To celebrate, RTC is offering half-off pricing for all passes. For pricing details, visit rtcbikeshare.bcycle.com
1. 8th & Fremont streets (Container Park)
2. Sahara Avenue & Las Vegas Boulevard
3. Stewart Avenue & 3rd Street (Downtown Grand Hotel)
4. 6th Street & Carson Avenue
5. 3rd Street & Bonneville Avenue