Bakersfield could soon get its first bike share program, a feature of many cities across the United States.
On Wednesday, the City Council is slated to approve a contract with Spin to conduct an electric bike share program for two years. Spin, an electric scooter company owned by Ford, has shown interest in Bakersfield in the past. In 2019, the company was in talks with Bakersfield officials to launch electric scooters within the city.
Those plans have apparently taken some time to come to fruition. Now, the city believes a new bike share program could reduce traffic congestion and promote a healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve observed bicycle share programs in every city from New York to Washington D.C. to the Bay Area, and have used bike share programs in those different cities and enjoyed them. I’m really excited that they are now coming to Bakersfield,” said City Councilman Andrae Gonzales. “It really addresses some of the transportation needs among some of our folks from disadvantaged neighborhoods, allowing them access to this mode of transportation and I think it’s a positive thing.”
Bakersfield received a roughly $1.1 million state grant to install infrastructure and conduct the program. The city has also pledged a $257,000 local match to support the project.
In a separate project, Spin will also deploy electronic scooters for local residents.
According to a memo sent to the City Council as part of Wednesday’s agenda, the city will install bike lanes, bike corrals and bike racks as part of the project.
While electric scooters already have a presence in Bakersfield, a bike share program has been absent up to this point. Furthermore, Bird, the electric scooter company that surprised city officials and residents alike in 2018 by dropping off hundreds of scooters without warning, did not cooperate with the city prior to its local launch. Spin, on the other hand, is on the verge of winning a city contract.
Hundreds, if not thousands of cities across the world have bike share programs. The programs typically work by allowing individuals to ride a bike from one docking station to another. In some cases, the bikes are left unlocked and can be ridden anywhere within a specified area.
Spin plans to launch the program with 125 e-bikes. Users will be able to ride the bikes anywhere within a zone that includes central Bakersfield and the Cal State Bakersfield and Bakersfield College campuses. Charging stations will also be installed at various points within the program’s boundaries.
Gonzales said discounts would be available for individuals earning low incomes and those who do not have bank accounts.
“I think this is an important step,” Gonzales added. “We need everything, multiple modes of transportation. Certainly this bike share program, which is funded through grants that the city has received, is just another important piece for our community.”
The program has no set start date, but Gonzales said he hoped it could begin within a few months.
You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.