The bright green bicycles stationed at 14 sites in Mesa logged 5,177 miles on 2,072 trips in the first year the Grid Bike Share program operated in the city.
Last March 17, the Grid Bike Share program kicked off with Mayor John Giles and other leaders hopping on the bikes for a spin around downtown Mesa.
A year later, city officials and leaders of Cycle Hop, the company that owns and operates the shared-bicycle system, met to tweak the Mesa program slightly.
Niel Curley, special projects manager in the Mesa City Manager’s Office, said after evaluating usage and routes, some stations will be closed, new stations added and more bikes located at some stations.
The program has been evaluated every month, Curley said, but these are the first big changes. The only other significant change in the past year was that some bicycles were relocated to Sloan Park in March for use by people attending Chicago Cubs spring training games.
“We saw great ridership at those two sites,” Curley said of Sloan Park.
The deal the city has with Cycle Hop calls for Cycle Hop employees to move bikes and stations whenever the city thinks it’s a good idea. The stations and bikes are portable, Curley said.
The flexibility offered by Cycle Hop is important, he said, to help the city better accommodate all sorts of special events. “We can easily move racks, on the fly.”
The number of bikes in Mesa – 100 – won’t change yet, Curley said. City officials are hopeful that eventually more bikes will be placed in the city to meet what they expect to be increased demand.
In the past year, the average trip length on a Grid Bike was 2.46 miles. The five busiest bike stations were at Main and Center streets, Sixth Street and Mesa Drive, Main Street and Mesa Drive, Main Street and Horne and Centennial Way and First Street, Curley said.
That usage in downtown Mesa didn’t surprise David Short, executive director of the Downtown Mesa Association.
Short said his agency is excited to have the bikes downtown.
“Pretty much every urban city has shared bikes,” he said, “because they offer connectivity.”
Short thinks usage is on the upswing in part because the learning curve to use the bikes is nearly finished.
“The bikes are getting used more and more people are learning how the system works,” he said.
Short notices heavy use whenever a convention or meeting takes place at the Mesa Convention Center.
It makes sense for visitors to use the bikes, Short said, because they don’t have to worry about driving in a city they don’t know or finding parking. Short uses shared bikes when he visits other cities in part because “it gives you a better feel for the city. It’s easier to experience a city when you ride a bike.”
The changes planned to be made by the end of April are expected to better meet the needs demonstrated by riders in the last year, Curley said.
“We found that a lot of our stations were oversized,” he said. “We had too many bikes there, so we’re reducing numbers at those sites and adding bikes at other locations.”
Nine stations will remain at their current sites (see map for details). Two stations are being removed: at East First and North Hobson and at East Broadway and South Olive.
Ten new stations are being created: Mesa and East Eighth, North Pasadena and East Fifth, North Drew and West Fifth, North Date and West First Place, West Second and North Robson, West Second and North Macdonald, the Mesa Arts Center, the LDS Temple, East Main and Hibbert and North Center and East Second.
Three stations are being added to accommodate Benedictine University students. One station will be at Benedictine’s main building on Main Street, another at its dormitory on Macdonald and the third at the Mesa Center for Higher Education, where both Benedictine and Wilkes University students attend classes.
Grid bikes have solar lights so they can be ridden at night. Each bike is equipped with a GPS in case it’s not returned to a station. Cycle Hop employees track down wayward bikes and return them to stations. The bikes all have a service button, too. When that button is pushed, a Cycle Hop employee responds to take care of the issue, such as a flat tire.
All the bikes have front and rear baskets and integrated locks that work in the Grid Bike stations and at standard bicycle racks.
Grid Bikes can be rented by the day, week or month. A 24-hour pass costs $7. A seven-day pass is $10 and a monthly pass costs $15. Students are offered a special rate of $25 for six months.
The three-speed bikes are simple to operate and are accessible 24 hours a day.
Users reserve and find bikes via the Grid Bikes mobile application or online at www.gridbikes.com. Reservations are not required. Once a person signs in to rent a bike, the user gets a code that unlocks the bike. When a rider is finished with the bike for the day, they can return it to any Grid Bike Share location in the Valley or to any regular bicycle rack. However, a $2 fee is charged if the bike is left somewhere besides a Grid Bike Share hub.
City leaders in the Valley have been discussing bike share programs for a while, Curley said. The plan has long been to use the light rail line as a spine for the bike program. The expectation is that many bicycle users will ride light rail or a bus somewhere close to their destination, check out a bike, take care of their business, ride the bike back to a hub and get back on the bus or train.
Cycle Hop has operated the Grid Bike Share system in Phoenix since 2014, with about 350 bikes there.
In Mesa, the two entities signed a five-year agreement which can be renewed in 2021. The City Council approved paying Cycle Hop $200,000 for the program. Cycle Hop collects all the revenue from the bike rentals and incurs all costs to maintain the system.
– Shelley Ridenour is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.com.