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Coming Tuesday: A look, a name and a plan for Tampa's urban bike-rental program

TAMPA — Tampa officials are expected Tuesday to unveil a look, a name and a plan for the city's new urban bike-rental program.

Last year, City Hall chose a partnership of CycleHop of Miami Beach and Social Bicycles of New York City to create the program. To start, organizers plan to place 300 bikes throughout the central business district, Ybor City and neighborhoods around downtown. Over the next two years, the city's plans call for adding more bikes to extend the program out to West Shore and north to the University of South Florida.

On social media Monday, the program — currently going by the name Tampa Bay Bike Share — offered hints suggesting the bikes will be blue, and saying the program's new name will combine a noun describing a feature of Tampa Bay's geography with a verb describing movement.

It also gave a few clues about some of the locations of the racks — something the city plans to announce at 8:45 a.m.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said the goal of the program is to make downtown Tampa feel less dominated by cars and more ridable, easy to shop and friendly to pedestrians.

Tampa officials originally thought they could roll out the program in the fall, but now are looking at the first quarter of this year.

Part of the reason for the delay is that finding the sites for bike racks has taken longer than expected. Also contributing is that the manufacturer is about to come out with a new generation of bikes with electronics making them easy to rent. (Picture tapping a plastic card on the back of the bikes, putting in a PIN and riding away.)

Under the city's 10-year contract with Social Bicycles and CycleHop, the program will not cost taxpayers anything. Instead, the city is letting the two companies install their bikes, racks and service kiosks on public rights of way, as well as sell advertising on the bikes.

The bikes are expected to be sturdy, with Kevlar tires, grease-free drive shafts instead of chains, antitheft GPS technology and seats that can be adjusted for riders from standing from 5 feet 1 to 6 feet 6. Organizers have discussed selling annual program memberships for $79 and "pay as you go" memberships that start at $5 per hour or $25 per day.

Social Bicycles also has bike-sharing programs based at the San Francisco airport, in Hoboken, N.J., Buffalo, N.Y., and Ketchum, Idaho. Nationwide, bike-sharing has taken hold in Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago and New York.