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Iowa City Cruises Ahead With Downtown Bike Share

Iowa City is getting its bike share program into gear. The service is slated to launch in and around downtown in late fall of 2019.

Iowa City is moving forward with its first-ever bike share. On Tuesday, the council authorized the city to contractwith a company called Gotcha to roll out a programcity leaders say will help meet the needs of low income residents and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Iowa City is following the lead of a string of cities across the state and throughout the country in rolling out a bike share program.

The city’s tentative plan is to launch a fleet of electric-assist bikes in and around downtown Iowa City later this fall.

City Transportation Services Director Darian Nagle-Gamm says the program aligns with a number of city priorities.

“Of course the goal of the bike share is to provide a healthy, safe, affordable and easily accessible transportation options for residents and visitors to reduce demand on our roadways, vehicle congestion, greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “Introducing this bike share is really going to help us reach those goals that have been articulated in our bike master planand also in the climate action plan.”

Under the agreement, Gotcha will maintain the bikes at no cost to the city, redistributing them around town as needed.

The bikes will have an electric assist feature that automatically kicks in based on pedal pressure, giving riders a helpful boost up the city’s hills. The bikes will be enabled with geo-fencing technology, allowing the city to designate preferred parking areas, with the flexibility of keeping the bikes dock-less.

City council members say they hope the program will expand needed transportation options for low income residents. City Councilor Mazahir Salih says the need is there.

“Really this is [sic] will be like, much needed at the low income neighborhood...are the people who will really [sic] in need of this because they can use it," she said. "And especially if they have discount on the...like as you said, there is some kind of discount for low income.”

For a one time ride, customers will pay $2 to unlock the bike and 10 cents a minute afterwards. Monthly memberships are available for $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year.

Low income customers can qualify for a discounted annual membership for $5 a year.

Council member Susan Mims also wants to see the bike share program expanded into neighborhoods where residents need transportation options, after any kinks are worked out in the downtown coverage area.

“I was really pleased to see the low income equalization, $5 annually…that is fantastic,” Mims said. “I understand and agree with starting it downtown where you think you’re going to have the most demand. But I think it’s essential that as quickly as possible we can start trying to get them out into the neighborhoods.”

Staff say they’ll work with Gotcha as the program progresses to expand access into neighborhoods and districts outside of downtown.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter