A new bicycle sharing program is rolling into downtown Las Vegas, giving tourists and locals a chance to pedal past dive bars, shops and restaurants.
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is putting the final touches this week on 20 new bicycle rental stations across downtown as a way to reduce traffic and promote a healthier lifestyle.
If successful, the concept could spread to other parts of the Las Vegas Valley.
“There’s no better way to see a neighborhood than on a bicycle,” said David Swallow, the RTC’s senior director of engineering and technology.
“You can’t get too far with walking, and driving forces you to focus on the road instead of enjoying your surroundings and really taking things in,” Swallow said. “Bicycling is that nice, in-between option that allows you to connect with a community.”
The RTC’s bicycle sharing program debuts with a soft opening on Friday, with a full rollout expected sometime in October.
Like a car rental, bicyclists will need a credit card to pay for rentals available at kiosks that will be open 24 hours a day, Swallow said. The cost to ride is $4 for 30 minutes or $8 for 24 hours. Those who don’t return the bicycles will be charged a hefty fee.
For a $20 monthly membership, users can get unlimited access to bicycles for 30-minute trips. Swallow suggested a tip for prospective monthly members: Keep returning those bicycles to a different station every half-hour, and restart the clock with a new bike to keep the free rides rolling.
Bicycle sharing programs have gained momentum over the past eight years, spreading to nearly 100 cities across the country, said Tim Blumenthal, president of the advocacy group People for Bikes.
“Bike sharing encourages people to get out of their cars for short trips, and that can help reduce traffic in the heart of a city,” Blumenthal said. “It gets people active and keeps them from sitting all day in traffic, while also giving them an economic way to get around town.”
BCycle won a contract earlier this year to oversee the RTC’s program, which has been under development since 2013. The company operates similar bicycle-sharing programs in more than 40 cities nationwide, including Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Philadelphia and Cincinnati.
Kiosk locations and the number of available bicycles will be listed on smartphone apps offered by BCycle and the RTC.
The new set of bicycles, equipment and payment software were funded 95 percent by a $1 million federal grant, with the rest paid by the RTC. The program is expected to cost $63,000 per month to maintain, funded by rider membership fees and business sponsorships, Swallow said.
But Blumenthal warned that bicycle sharing programs don’t tend to be profitable.
“It’s hard to make the systems break even due to the significant up-front costs, so don’t expect the Las Vegas program to miraculously make money,” Blumenthal said. “But if they do it right by providing enough stations and promoting the program, then they will create a better city.”
The bicycle sharing program will surely make use of a new network of green bicycle lanes that have cropped up on downtown streets in the last few years, allowing cyclists to share the road with vehicles.
Given the program’s popularity in other cities and an influx of downtown residents moving in, Swallow doesn’t think bicycle-sharing will hit the skids anytime soon.
“We’re excited to offer another option for people to get around town,” Swallow said. “Our goal is to see people use it.”
CONCERNED WITH CACTUS
James from the Mountain Edge area of town said he was concerned about the increased traffic and speeding vehicles coming off of Interstate 15 at Cactus Avenue. He wanted to know whether Clark County officials were planning to add some lanes to the bustling road.
It turns out designs are underway to widen and improve access along a 2½-mile stretch of Cactus between Verona Wood Street and Valley View Boulevard, said county spokesman Dan Kulin.
The project still requires the county to acquire some right-of-way property, making it difficult to determine a timeline. However, Kulin said that construction could move forward about a year from now, in fall 2017.
If all goes according to plan, Kulin said the county will install a new traffic signal at Cactus and Valley View, which should help improve traffic flow to and from the new interchange at I-15.
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ROAD WORK AHEAD
■ Interstate 15 will be restricted in both directions between Russell and Warm Springs roads from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 4 a.m. Wednesday. Crews are inspecting bridges.
■ The Russell Road onramp to southbound U.S. Highway 95 in Henderson will be closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday to Thursday. The highway’s southbound right lane will also be closed near Russell at this time. Crews are installing lights on overhead signs.
■ Tropicana Avenue will be restricted in both directions between Arville Street and Interstate 15 from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday. Crews are inspecting bridges.
■ North Fifth and North Lawrence streets will be closed between East Ann Road and El Campo Grande in North Las Vegas through Saturday. Crews are making storm drain improvements.
■ Fremont Street will be closed between 7th and 11th streets from 6 a.m. Tuesday to noon Oct. 3 for the Las Vegas Bike Fest.
■ Bonanza Road is restricted between 19th Street and Mojave Road through Friday as crews install gas lines.
■ Sunset Road will be restricted at Grand Canyon Drive from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Clark County Water Reclamation District is conducting survey work.
■ Fort Apache Road will be restricted at Post Road from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Clark County Water Reclamation District is conducting survey work.
■ Carey Avenue will be restricted around Pariva Street from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday for sewer work.
■ The ramp leading from westbound Warm Springs Road to the westbound 215 Beltway will be closed from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays through Fridays until mid-March. Crews are working on the new flyover ramp and bridge.
■ The Martin Luther King Boulevard onramp to northbound U.S. Highway 95 will is closed through November. Crews are erecting retaining walls around the Spaghetti Bowl interchange as part of Project Neon.
■ Cliff Shadows Parkway and Lone Mountain Drive are restricted at the 215 Beltway through Oct. 16. Crews are realigning the Beltway.
■ Summerlin Parkway is restricted between Buffalo Drive and the 215 Beltway through Saturday. Crews are installing a cable rail median.
■ Buffalo Drive will be restricted between Sky Pointe and Grand Teton Drive from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 15 as crews improve pedestrian crossings.
■ Cimarron Road will be restricted between Sky Pointe and Grand Teton Drive from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 15 as crews improve pedestrian crossings.
■ Elkhorn Road will be restricted between U.S. Highway 95 and Tenaya Way from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 15 as crews work on road improvements.
■ Sections of Bonneville Avenue, Charleston Boulevard, Grand Central Parkway and Martin Luther King Boulevard will have closed or disrupted lanes surrounding the Spaghetti Bowl as crews work on Project Neon through July 2018.
■ Traffic will be redirected and reduced to one lane in each direction of U.S. Highway 95 for about a mile in Boulder City through March. Crews are building a bridge over the highway for the future Interstate 11 corridor.
■ Valley Drive is being widened between Tropical Parkway and Cheyenne Avenue in North Las Vegas, with completion expected in March.
The average gasoline price Friday in the Las Vegas Valley was $2.45 per gallon. It was $2.49 in Nevada. The national average of $2.21 is up 2 cents from a week ago, up 2 cents from a month ago and down 7 cents from a year ago.