NORMAL — The town of Normal's new bicycle rental program will go away for the winter next month, but officials are satisfied with results to date.
Bike Share 309, which the town launched in partnership with Cambridge, Mass.-based company Zagster in March, is near a goal of 3,300 rides for 2017 and is approaching 1,000 riders with a month left before it goes on hiatus from mid-December to early March.
"We're really pleased," said Town Planner Mercy Davison, who coordinates the program for Normal. "It's been a big success so far. We certainly want it to be better next year."
For Davison, that means more bikes — the town has 47 — and more stations.
Bike Share 309 lets adults use any mobile phone to rent a bicycle from any of nine Twin City locations and return it to any of those locations.
Rides are $3 per hour, but riders can buy a $10 monthly or $40 annual membership to make the first hour free. Customers from local colleges and universities can buy annual memberships for $25.
Bikes are offered near Advocate BroMenn Medical Center; Connie Link Amphitheatre; the Hyatt Place hotel; Illinois State University's Cardinal Court, Schroeder Hall, Tri-Towers and Watterson Towers, all in Normal; and Illinois Wesleyan University's Hansen Student Center and the Route 66 Visitors Center, both in Bloomington.
"Over the winter we will be planning for 2018, including looking into new station locations to increase one-way trips," said Karl Alexander, an account manager at Zagster. He did not specify where those might be or how they might be paid for; Davison said the town doesn't plan to pay for them.
The town is paying Zagster $84,600 per year, plus a $3,287 setup fee and 7 percent of rental proceeds, to run the program, with the rest of the revenue going to the town. BroMenn has agreed to pay $10,000 per year and is advertising on the bikes and stations.
As of Oct. 31, local riders numbered 983, with 3,068 trips; officials hoped to hit 1,800 riders. Those trips translate to six months of an individual continuously riding a bicycle and 2.8 million calories burned, according to Zagster's estimates.
The most popular stations have been near ISU, including uptown, said Davison. The university offers a similar program called Reggie Rides, but that program is open only during Student Fitness Center hours, limits checkouts to one day and is not expected to offer additional locations.
Alexander said Zagster also offers secure Bluetooth locking technology, rolled out in August; "the ability for the rider to lock the bike mid-trip, which is unlike other bike share providers"; and "real-time bike and parking availability" in its mobile app.
Officials hoped the program would make Bloomington-Normal not only more mobile but healthier, more productive and more welcoming.