Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesASPEN - WE-cycle, the long-awaited Aspen bike-sharing program, is gearing up for a May launch.Pass sales will begin in early May, stations will be erected in the middle of the month, and the system will make its official debut in late May, with 100 bicycles spread among 12 stations that offer 182 docking spaces.The goal is providing bikes for residents and visitors to use for quick, point-to-point trips. The system differs from traditional bike rentals in that the WE-cycle three-speed bikes are to be used for short trips. Daily, three-day, seven-day or season passes can be purchased with a credit card at a station or online."Bike sharing is essentially transit. We are the last mile of that transit system," Mirte Mallory, WE-cycle director, said in an update to Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.For someone who rides a bus up to Aspen, for example, WE-cycle offers bicycles for quick trips around town. For a one-day pass, which will cost $7, each trip of 30 minutes or less involves no additional charge. Bikes can be taken from one station and deposited at another or returned to the same station where the trip began.For the nonprofit organizers of WE-cycle, the program has been a long time in coming. The system first was demonstrated in Aspen in 2010 and originally was expected to launch the following year. There were a handful of bike-share systems operating in the country at that time; now there are 27 and roughly four more scheduled to launch this year, according to Mallory.In the past three years, the necessary $500,000 to cover capital costs has been nearly raised through donations and public/private partnership investments. Vendors have been chosen and the bikes, stations and software purchased to make the system work.According to Mallory, 50 of the bikes are still up for adoption - for $1,500, a bike's chain guard will be inscribed for five years. Adopted bikes often are inscribed as a tribute, or in someone or something's memory, she said. Go to www.we-cycle.org/adoptabike.org for more information.Previously, 10 stations were planned with the start-up in Aspen, but now there are 12, including one near the base of Smuggler Mountain Road. A WE-cycle bike can be used to get back and forth from town for a lunchtime hike up Smuggler, Mallory suggested.There will be stations around the downtown core, as well as several spots on the outskirts - at Smuggler, the Aspen Club & Spa, Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Meadows Resort, the Aspen Institute and the post office.A crew will monitor use of the bikes in real time and shuffle them among stations as needed, according to Mallory. In addition, users will be able to download an app that will allow them to track bike availability at the various stations.WE-cycle expects to operate from May until the end of October or into November, weather permitting, Mallory said.Go to www.we-cycle.org for more information on the program as well as station sponsorship and business sponsorship opportunities.
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