July 16. 2017 11:25PM

Manchester bike sharing program called a success

New Hampshire Union Leader

Carol Gayman, who had the idea to bring ridesharing bikes to Manchester, takes a spin on one of the city's new bikes in the parking lot of The Bike Barn in Manchester on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — A little more than a month after its launch — and more than 300 bike rentals later — organizers of Bike Share Manchester are calling the new program a success.

“The response has been very positive, even better than we hoped for,” said Carol Gayman, who first proposed the idea of bringing a bike rental program to the Queen City nearly two years ago.

The program consists of “stations” located around the city where bicycles are made available for the public to rent. A user can pick up a bike from one station, keep it as long as needed, and return it to a different station.

The cost is $2 per hour, with monthly and yearly memberships of $15 and $30 respectively also available.

The program kicked off with six rental stations — Stanton Plaza, the YMCA on Mechanic Street, The Puritan Backroom restaurant on Hooksett Road, City Hall Plaza, 1230 Elm St. in front of the Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Sandbox Collaborative, and Gateway Park, located at the northeast corner of Granite and Commercial streets, at the entrance to the Millyard from Exit 5 off Interstate 293.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Zagster, which operates 150 bike-sharing programs in more than 30 states, oversees the program.

According to data provided by Will Stewart, chairman of Bike Manchester, the rental program currently has 196 active riders, who have rented bikes for a total of 326 trips since the program started on June 6. The program is averaging 62 trips per week, with the median trip duration clocking in at 41 minutes.

“It’s hard to know what people are renting them for; there’s no way to track that,” said Stewart. “From my own observations, I’ve seen downtown employees use them during the afternoon, maybe to get a bite to eat, or a couple using them on July 4th just for the fun of it. The reaction has been very positive.”

And none of the bikes have been reported stolen.

“We were concerned about that,” said Gayman. “So far, it hasn’t happened.”

Staff at The Bike Barn on So. Commercial Street put the bikes together prior to the program’s launch. The shop is also overseeing bike maintenance for Bike Share Manchester.

“They go out on Sundays, every two weeks, and inspect and perform maintenance on the bikes,” said Gayman. “They are proactively looking for problems, rather than reacting.”

Gayman and her Bike Share Committee secured sponsorships for six 22-foot-long and 18-inch-wide bike racks at a cost of $9,000 per sponsor for the program’s launch. SNHU sponsored three bike racks, and the law firm McLane Middleton, the YMCA and the Puritan Backroom sponsored the other three.

Stewart said a deal has been finalized with Catholic Medical Center for a new bike rack to be in place by early September.

“The West Side will have its first station,” said Stewart.

Stewart said he is excited to see what type of use the bikes get once college students return to Manchester this fall.

“I think we’ll see a big uptick in the numbers,” said Stewart.