Community

During these cold winter months, most of the bike riders you see on the streets are pretty hardcore. But in warmer times, locals and tourists sometimes use LouVelo, the city’s bike share program. They can borrow bikes to ride around downtown or along the waterfront. But how popular is the program?

In the first seven months of operation, starting in June 2017, riders took 11,497 trips, according to a year-end report compiled by LouVelo. On average, they took about 53 trips a day. With 27 stations and 305 bikes available, that worked out to 0.18 trips per bike, per day.

Matthew Glaser, LouVelo’s general manager, said ridership is lower than he’d like — but higher than his team projected when the bike share program launched late last spring. It was funded by more than $1 million in federal grants, another $273,000 from Louisville Metro and support from several corporate sponsors.

Issues such as weather and the need to educate the public on how to use a bike share program may have contributed to lower participation.

“When we get to 140 [riders] a day to about 175 a day, the math kind of shakes out that that’s kind of what’s needed to make this thing viable and keep going,” Glaser said. “We’re on a path to doing that.”

He said he expects to hit that rate this year.

Over time, Louisville could take 40 to 60 bike stations without becoming over-saturated, Glaser said. The city could start moving toward that next year, if more funding comes in and ridership grows.

“Hopefully in 2019, we’re looking to bring another 20 stations that will help connect this downtown kind of area more with the suburbs and help with the commuters,” Glaser said.

Where Are The Bikes?

In its first several months, LouVelo’s top stations were clustered near downtown. The most popular station is at 4th and Guthrie, which had 2,041 combined trips, rentals and returns. The runner-up: Preston and Witherspoon, with 1,997.

“That’s our gateway basically to the Waterfront Park,” Glaser said.

The station near the WFPL office, at 4th and Broadway, is the fourth most popular, with 1,560 trips.

Downtown stations capture some commuters, as well as locals and tourists interested in sightseeing, Glaser said. The stations were installed last year based on projections of where they would be most popular.

From June through December, LouVelo racked up about 3,600 active users. Most of them used the “pay as you go” option, with monthly subscriptions being the second most popular type of membership.

They rode 5,380 miles, with trips averaging about half a mile and 35 minutes, the report said. Weekend trips were slightly longer on average than those during the week.

Glaser said he’s looking forward to summer, and expects ridership to pick up in late March or early April, once the weather starts to improve. He hopes new initiatives this year will help LouVelo grow.

One of those new initiatives is the ability to buy every kind of LouVelo pass through TARC’s free Transit App, which he hopes will become a one-stop shop for bike share and bus passes. The other is a potential integration with the upcoming My TARC card, which would let bus riders use the same card to rent bikes.

“We want to try to make this seamless kind of interchangeable public transportation for Louisville, Kentucky,” Glaser said.

Amina Elahi | wfpl.org

Matthew Glaser stands among bikes and supplies at LouVelo’s office on East Market Street.

The future of bike share in Louisville depends on a few things: how many sponsors the program gets, where Metro government sees opportunities for expansion and how many people ride the bikes.

Glaser said more bike lanes would also help. He’s not concerned that Louisville has such a strong driving culture.

“I drive a truck and I wear boots, and I’m never going to give up my truck and I’m not going to give up driving and stuff, but I still find that I incorporate the bicycle in my life,” Glaser said. “I think I’m the perfect representation of the middle ground of a Kentucky boy who’s still going to commute with a bike at times.”

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.