ST. GEORGE – Mayor Jon Pike formally announced to the public Friday a bike-sharing program coming to St. George, slated for launch in January 2019.
“This is really a dream come true because we are thought of, and have become more of, a bicycling community and I want to promote that,” Pike said following the announcement at Dixie Regional Medical Center’s Health & Performance Center, located at the hospital’s 700 South campus.
The celebratory event Friday was held at the hospital’s Health & Performance Center primarily due to Intermountain Healthcare sponsoring up to five of the future St. George bike-share stations through Dixie Regional and Select Health, Intermountain’s subsidiary for health insurance.
“Our mission here at our hospital and across Intermountain Healthcare is to help people live the healthiest lives possible, and we work on that mission each and every day,” said Terri Kane, a regional vice president for Intermountain Healthcare.
Bringing a bike-share program to St. George has been a goal since he was elected mayor four years ago, Pike said. In addition to being the mayor of St. George, Pike also works for SelectHealth. Speaking for the city and the company, he said, “we are all about wellness and that’s something we really want to promote.”
Patricia Richards, CEO of SelectHealth, said SelectHealth is especially pleased to be a bike-station sponsor due to the benefit it can be to people and the community.
“We looked at bike-share programs in other communities around the country and found that people that use it maintain their weight or lose a couple of pounds,” Richards said, adding it also reduced car use, thus helping to cut back on pollution.
St. George has gone with bike-share company Zagster for the bike stations. In addition to the five stations sponsored by Intermountain, Pike said, another six are also being sponsored. Those sponsors are Dixie State University, Washington County Area Tourism Office, Zagster and Brad Harr & Associates injury law firm.
“As soon as we saw the bike-share program, we knew that, that was something we wanted to be a part of,” Brad Harr said.
While his firm focuses on injury law, he said, it also promotes public awareness of certain issues like the bike-share program addresses. Aside from that, the Harr-sponsored bike station will offer something the others won’t offer initially – a pair of tandem bicycles.
The program is anticipated to start with 10 or 11 bike-share stations and 50-55 bikes.
During a St. George City Council meeting in August, Support Services Director Marc Mortensen estimated program costs at $90,000 for 50 bikes across 10 stations for two years.
Regular bicycle maintenance is included in the cost and managed by Zagster, which recruits local bike shops to make repairs and conduct biweekly checks on the stations.
Most of the cost will be made up through the aforementioned sponsorships at $9,000-per-year per station, whether paid for by private or public entities.
While it has adopted the program, the St. George city is not sponsoring any of the bike-share stations itself.
The stations will be featured across the city, among them two on Dixie State University campus – one by the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Building, the other near the Campus View dorms.
“I think it’s awesome,” Dixie State Student Body President Ezra Hainsworth said. “As we know, Dixie State University’s motto is ‘Active learning, active life.’ I think the Zagster bike-share will really help with that.”
The bikes will help students get around campus, as well as help them get out and explore the community more.
Once the bike stations are in place, accessing them is a pretty simple process.
“You download the Zagster app,” Mortensen said, “and it shows you where the nearest stations are.”
From there you rent a bicycle using the app by identifying the bicycle number, which bills the renter’s credit card. The bike-renter’s credit card must be entered into the app beforehand, Morensen said, to ensure “the bike will come back.”
Bike rental rates have yet to be defined as the city is working to keep the cost as low as possible.
“The goal of this is not to see a ton of revenue,” Mortensen said. “It’s to see people active and on bicycles in the community.”
Bikes may be rented on an hourly basis, as the program anticipates most trips will be short ones. However, offers like a multimonth pass will also be offered, Pike said, which may come in handy for university students.
Others excited about the incoming bike-share program are members of the Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance.
“We’ve been excited by the prospect of a bike-share program for a long time,” SUBA member Craig Shanklin said at Friday’s announcement event.
“It takes care of so many issues we have in St. George,” Shanklin said, “whether it’s health issues due to inactivity, pollution-control issues, (or) traffic and congestion problems. Anytime we get people on a bike, those problems get better.”
The new bike-share program further plays into St. George’s reputation as a biking mecca. The city is a designated “Road Respect” community – a program developed by Utah’s departments of transportation and public safety to address concerns from both bicyclists and drivers about safety and the behaviors of each group on the road. Among its aims, the Road Respect program looks for cyclist-friendly infrastructure and promotion of cycling overall in its designated communities.
Cycling factors heavily into the city’s active transportation plan, which oversees infrastructure planning.
Currently 155 miles of paved and unpaved trails, as well as bike lanes and shared vehicle/bike roadways, exist in St. George. The city’s active transportation planners have recommended increasing those to 344.5 miles over the coming years.
Read more: City adopts active transportation plan
The bike-share program is set to launch around January 11, Pike said.
St. George News reporter Joseph Witham contributed to this story.
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