A Social (Bike) Network

Cathy Salustri

A Social (Bike) Network

By this time next year, Gulfport could have a low-impact bike share program in full swing – at no cost to the city. A company called Tampa Bay Bike Share (TBBS) approached the city about placing rental bikes in downtown Gulfport.

 Cities like Copenhagen and college campuses such as Eckerd College have bikes available, but TBBS Program Director Andrew Blikken said TBBS differs slightly.

 “What they have in Copenhagen is the same thing they have in Eckerd College, and that is what they call a free-range bike share. There’s no real inventory control,” he said.

 Each of Gulfport’s city bikes would have a GPS and a cellular chip so the company can keep locate each of its bikes.

 “That’s an important distinction,” Mr. Blikken said. “You have to be able to communicate with the bike.”

 TBBS will place its bikes throughout Gulfport’s downtown area at no cost to the city. Gulfport, Mr. Blikker told the Gabber, wouldn’t even have to add bike racks.

 “Any existing bike infrastructure is welcome. Any new bike bikes installed are wonderful, but they are not necessarily program-specific,” he said.

 TBBS will sell daily bike passes for five dollars, as well as weekly and annual passes ($25 and $80, respectively). TBBS will charge late return fees and offer student discounts. Each bike – and Mr. Blikker estimated that Gulfport would have “no less than 100” although that number could change once TBBS did a feasibility study – would have a wheel lock on each bike that riders would activate using TBBS’s web-based system. Riders could use the library computers, a smart phone, or use text messaging to rent a bike. The bikes will lock to any bike rack.

 “We don’t really care where people ride them, we just want to make sure they’re locked up in pockets that service other riders,” he added. TBBS plans to have hub locations in high traffic areas with “pockets” in smaller areas. Areas like Gulfport will serve as such pockets; St. Petersburg, USF, Tampa, and the beaches will all have hubs as well as, Mr. Blikker hopes, Sarasota.

 “Basically,” Mr. Blikker said, “all of downtown Gulfport will be a pocket. On its own, Gulfport doesn’t have critical mass to support bike share, but it makes sense as pocket for bike sharing.

There’s never going to be a fixed number of bikes in Gulfport,” Mr. Blikker said, because people will be using them interchangeably with nearby cities.

 The weather tolerant, chainless bikes will have airless tires, reflectors, and lights. The bike locks operate on solar batteries, which get recharged as people pedal the bicycle. They will also be sponsored by “major, national level companies”, although Mr. Blikker could not, at press times, say which companies would sponsor the bikes.

 Eric Trull, a marketing assistant, presented the plan to Gulfport city council Tuesday night. “The best way to see the beauty of the area is on a bike,” he told council. “We’d love to add Gulfport to this list as well.”

 Over 500 cities participate in Bike Share, including Chicago, New York, and now, Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay Bike Share estimate Tampa Bay would sustain 10,000 bikes. If council approves, the company will have the city’s permission to use right-of-ways.

 Council agreed unanimously to move forward with an agreement between the city and Tampa Bay Bike Share. The agreement will allow TBBS to place bike racks on city property.

Visit SocialBicycles.com for more information.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.


The solar powered wheel lock, GPS, and cellular chip get recharged as riders pedal the bike.