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Pittsburgh's bike sharing service starts off healthy

Bob Bauder
| Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
David White, executive director of the nonprofit organization Pittsburgh Bike Share, stands with one of the bikes, Downtown on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
David White, executive director of the nonprofit organization Pittsburgh Bike Share, stands with one of the bikes, Downtown on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015.
David White, executive director of the nonprofit organization Pittsburgh Bike Share, shows some of the technology used in the program on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
David White, executive director of the nonprofit organization Pittsburgh Bike Share, shows some of the technology used in the program on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015.

Pittsburgh's bike sharing service is averaging more than 12,000 rides a month and has lost only one bicycle since the program became fully operational in July with 50 stations around the city, its executive director said.

David White, who heads Pittsburgh Bike Share, the nonprofit that operates Healthy Ride Pittsburgh, said the program has exceeded expectations.

In July, the system recorded its highest usage with 14,653 rentals, followed by 14,290 in August and about 9,000 in September, White said.

He expects October's numbers to mirror September's.

“Users are overwhelmingly supportive,” he said. “We've had a lot of people use the bikes to get to after-school activities. We have university students using the bikes. We have people who use the bikes during lunch Downtown.”

The program has 500 bikes and operates stations in 11 neighborhoods. A station in Market Square gets the most use.

Riders can rent a bike for $2 per half-hour or through membership plans that cost $12 a month for unlimited 30-minute rides and $20 for unlimited 60-minute rides. Users can register for free on the program's website or at the rental kiosks at stations.

“It's a whole new mode of transportation that didn't exist in the city,” said Kevin Acklin, chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, who supported the program. “I think the usage has been tremendous.”

To register, users must enter a telephone number and ZIP code. White said people from across the nation and world have rented bikes.

Bike Share has not measured the number of riders from outside the city.

White said one bike is missing and cannot be located, despite a wireless tracking system. He said the program experienced minor glitches, including problems with docking. He attributed that to riders who don't dock a bike correctly and mechanical issues at the stations.

“That's been a very small number of cases,” he said, adding that Healthy Ride passed its initial test and will become a permanent city service.

Pittsburgh Bike Share plans to maintain the service through the winter as a test and will decide whether to maintain operations through cold months based on use.

White said the program is operating within budget but declined to supply financial information.

“I'd rather not give those numbers out yet,” he said. “I think after a year would be a little bit better for comparisons.”

The Federal Highway Administration supplied a $1.6 million grant to cover equipment purchases and start-up costs. The joint venture between the city and Pittsburgh Bike Share is funded through rider fees and at least $1.2 million from charitable foundations.

Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312.

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