Louisville’s long-awaited bike share program will be up and running Thursday. Mayor Greg Fischer will kick off the program with an inaugural ride at 10 a.m.
LouVelo will begin with 300 bikes across 28 stations in the city. People scan their credit cards to rent the bikes, and return them to any station once they’re done.
Currently, those stations are located downtown, near East Market, Old Louisville and near the University of Louisville.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to see it,” said Ben Botkins, founder of Parkside Bikes bike shop.
Soon, his shop will share a building with LouVelo on Market Street.
“You would think that in one way it’s counter-intuitive to a bike retailer to have ultra, ultra-cheap bike transportation on the same block, which In Nulu they have one of the stations right there,” he said. “But, I think of it as an ‘all ships rise with the tide’ thing with this. The more people on bikes, the more people are going to ride bikes.”
Though a city-wide bike share program is new to Louisville, this is one of many similar programs contracted through Miama-based CycleHop.
CycleHop manages dozens of national and international bike share programs. One such Chicago program started in 2013 with 75 stations and 750 bikes; it now touts more than 580 stations and 5,800 bikes, according to the program’s website.
LouVelo Head Mechanic Tom Hughes hopes the program helps boost revenue.
“It’s a little bit for tourism around town,” he said. “You can go check out shops, restaurants, bars, whatever you want. It’s real easy, just grab a bike and go anywhere.”
The program also focuses on biking as another transportation method for locations within a mile.
Though there’s enthusiasm for the project, Jackie Green, founder of Bike Couriers Bike Shops, said he believes the city needs to address urban traffic safety first.
“I’m glad Louisville is introducing the program,” said Green. “Louisville, however, is making a mistake. The first thing we need to do before we introduce a bike share program is to calm traffic.”
Green said urban areas are a danger to novice bikers soon to flood city sidewalks. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas and non-intersection locations.
Louvelo plans to expand stations to Russell, the Highlands and more areas, based on data recorded by the bikes. That data tracks riders’ trips, providing officials with information on where more stations could expand.
LouVelo is being paid for through a combination of federal and Metro Government funds and corporate donations.