Advocate delivers boost to Harrisburg bike-share program

Originally published in Central Penn Business Journal.

October 6, 2017 - How do you get downtown workers to support a bike-share program? Persuade the most vocal advocate for downtown revitalization to buy every one of his employees an annual membership in the program and hope others will follow his lead.

That's how Harrisburg's new bike-share program kicked off Thursday.

Brad Jones, president and CEO of Harristown Enterprises, one of the sponsors of Harrisburg Bike Share, announced that his company, is purchasing $25 annual bike-share memberships for each of its 150 employees. The company owns Strawberry Square and has been one of the most active in tackling development projects in the downtown in recent years.

Jones, an avid cyclist, and representatives from other business and government sponsors, including the Dauphin County commissioners, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Harrisburg Young Professionals and title sponsor, Highmark Blue Shield, then took an inaugural ride on Third Street to the state Capitol complex at State Street.

Proceeds from Harrisburg Bike Share largely benefit local nonprofit Communities In Schools of Pennsylvania, a dropout prevention organization. Officials said 93 percent of proceeds benefit the nonprofit, which serves nearly 50,000 students and their families.

The organization is outsourcing bike-share operations through Massachusetts-based Zagster, a national bike-share provider with more than 200 programs in 35 states.

Harrisburg Bike Share has 55 Zagster bikes available at 11 stations throughout the city. Most locations are in downtown Harrisburg.

The bikes costs $90,000 per year and the organization has a two-year commitment with Zagster, said Ryan Riley, president and state director of Communities In Schools. Business and government sponsors are helping to offset the costs. Dauphin County, for example, contributed $16,500 to the program.

Commissioner Jeff Haste called the bike-share program a great attraction for both residents and visitors to Harrisburg. Plus, it should help take some vehicles off the road during lunch hour, while helping downtown workers navigate to places like the Broad Street Market in Midtown.

In addition to the $25 annual memberships, which include free trips under two hours, users can opt for pay-as-you-go memberships, which are $2 per hour, up to $20 per ride. People who keep the bikes for more than 24 hours will be charged an additional $50 in overtime fees.

To rent the bikes, users need the Zagster app for smartphones. Through the app, riders find a bike number and enter it to get an unlock code, allowing them access to the bike.

There also is a ride-by-text option.