ST. PETERSBURG — Cycling downtown on a blue basket bicycle has proven to be a popular pastime, according to the first yearly report provided by the Coast Bike Share.
In an update presented to the St. Petersburg City Council, Coast announced that 45,673 trips had been taken on a Coast bicycle since January 2017.
Those trips amounted to 91,591 miles navigated on St. Petersburg streets, equivalent to traveling nearly 3.7 times around the Earth's circumference. Officials say it has saved 80,600 pounds of carbon emissions that would have been used by vehicles over that same distance.
Kerry Bailey, regional marketing manager for Coast Bike Share, said the most surprising fact is how popular the program has become.
"We're most impressed by how residents have taken to using the system," Bailey said. "It's not just used by tourists trying to get around town, but by residents trying to get to work."
Ridership data between Tampa and St. Petersburg is nearly identical, Bailey said, except that it appears more residents of St. Petersburg are using the program regularly, rather than on a one-time basis. Those who have purchased monthly or yearly subscriptions in St. Pete make up almost 50 percent of the trips taken.
"This tells us that St. Pete residents are using the system heavily for day-to-day transportation," Bailey said. "Tampa tends to skew a little more toward casual ridership."
A one-hour rental costs $8, while subscriptions — which allow riders to use the bikes for an hour a day — run $15 (month) and $79 (year).
Coast Bike Share began as a demo program of 100 bicycles at 10 stations across downtown St. Petersburg in November 2016. The program released 300 bicycles at more than 30 stations the following February for its full launch , ranging out from downtown St. Petersburg to the Edge District, Grand Central and the Warehouse Arts District.
Among its next goals is a virtual hub that will allow users to drop the bicycles off at certain public bike stations. At the moment, rented bicycles need to be returned to a Coast station in order to avoid a charge.
"We put out a one-year survey to our members and found out that being able to lock the bikes up anywhere is the most popular item on the wish list," said Bailey. "That should be a very flexible change and we shouldn't have to do a lot to adapt the system. We are definitely excited for the prospect and to see what our members think."
Another idea being discussed, Bailey said, is a low-income based membership.
"It would connect with public transportation and provide a healthy alternative," Bailey said. " We think it's a necessary option to provide to lower-income residents of Pinellas County. Combining this with the virtual hub program, we think could be a significant benefit to the community."
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Folks can expect an announcement about the virtual hub system in May, officials said.
Coast Bike Share is managed by the Cyclehop LLC, which operates in 15 cities in the United States and Canada. The Coast program is also in Tampa and has a smaller operation with the University of South Florida.
With the first year out of the way, Bailey looks forward to further improvements and increased ridership, especially downtown.
"It was an exciting year for the bicycle community in St. Petersburg and it really seems like something that's been embraced by everyone," Bailey said.