COLLEGE PARK – The City of College Park is gearing up to promote and expand its new bike-share program when students, faculty and staff return to the University of Maryland campus later this August.
During a four cities coalition meeting between College Park, Berwyn Heights, New Carrollton and Greenbelt on July 27, College Park updated city officials on the progress of the program, which was introduced in early May.
Steve Beavers, community development coordinator in the city’s Department of Planning, Community and Economic Development, said issues with other bike-share companies led to College Park, in conjunction with the University of Maryland, to sign with Zagster Inc.
“It was sort of a long process to prepare our (request for proposal), but we saw it as an opportunity to get what we really needed as a city out of our bike-share system,” Beavers said. “Zagster was able to provide us a bigger system and a longer term. They basically gave us three years of a fully operational bike-share system with more bikes and more stations.”
At the onset, College Park had considered partnering with Alta and using the Capital Bikeshare system, which currently serves Washington, D.C.; Arlington County, Va.; Alexandria, Va.; and Montgomery County, making Prince George’s County the only major jurisdiction in the DMV area to not offer bike-share.
However, when one of Alta’s (now Motivate’s) primary bike suppliers, Public Bike System Company, filed for bankruptcy in 2014, College Park abandoned signing a contract because Alta could not specify when it would be able to provide equipment.
With 15 stations across College Park, the University of Maryland campus and surrounding areas, mBike provides 135 bikes for riders who can join the program on a daily, monthly, six-month or annual basis.
Beavers said the program has been convenient for residents who do not have the means to easily navigate the city. In addition, however, he mentioned that GPS navigation is built into the bikes and they have seen trips taken as far north as Laurel and as far south as Washington, D.C.
Monday through Friday, riders can use a bike for up to an hour without being charged a late fee of three dollars an hour. This time is extended to three hours on the weekends. With 125 memberships, Beavers said the city is looking to boost that number this fall.
“It’s really a last-mile transit system. We don’t look at it as a bicycle rental service,” Beavers said. “You feel more confident that you don’t have to bring your car with you to College Park. It’s really an option to free our residents and visitors from the sense that they need a car.”
mBike is a smart-bike system, meaning the technology used to bill the user and keep track of the bike’s use is stored on the bike itself rather than at a kiosk, which is referred to as a smart-dock system.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said mBike is convenient because riders have the option of locking up bikes at or near the station, as opposed to smart-dock systems such as Capital Bikeshare where you must find an open kiosk to lock the bike.
“It offers more flexibility with the bikes you have. It doesn’t have to be inserted into a particular area,” Wojahn said. “It also offers accessible bikes and that has become a big issue for bike-share programs around the country. There’s been a push to make more of them accessible and this essentially accomplishes that.”
Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheryl Jewitt said her city is not necessarily looking to implement a bike-share system, but continues to expand and improve regional bicycle and pedestrian trails for residents.
“I am very impressed by the mBike system and am excited to hear more details as this is still new. I wish College Park continued success,” she said.