Bike share program expected at UI, Moscow this spring

The Moscow City Council authorized the city to enter into an agreement with the University of Idaho and Gotcha Mobility for a one-year dockless bicycle share pilot program. The bikes will be similar to the bike pictured above in this Gotcha Mobility publicity photo.

Fifty pedal-assisted electric bicycles are expected to hit the streets of Moscow and the University of Idaho this spring.

On Monday, the Moscow City Council authorized the city to enter into an agreement with the UI and Gotcha Mobility for a one-year dockless bicycle share pilot program.

A similar program was expected to be implemented at the UI and in the city back in August, but Spin, a bike and scooter share company, announced it discontinued its dockless pedal bike system in favor of a scooter share system.

"The bike share industry has undergone a really rapid transformational change over the last several years, but especially in the last year, as the scooters have become very disruptive to the entire bike share system," Tyler Palmer, Moscow deputy director of operations for public works, told the City Council on Monday.

Palmer said the city wanted a user-friendly, sustainable bike share program that would meet the needs of the community and ensure safety.

"We've identified a company that we think their model works a lot better for the city of Moscow and for what we're targeting," Palmer said. "We think it's a more sustainable model."

The 12-month pilot program for the 50 Gotcha branded bikes will cost $45,000 - a total the city and university will split.

"The e-bikes are exciting for us because the topography is a big impediment to a lot of people," Palmer told the Daily News. "We don't have the hills like Pullman has, but we do have hills."

Palmer said riders will still need to pedal to move around town or campus, but the bike will assist users when traversing a hill, for example.

Palmer told the council the bikes, which are expected to be launched April 1, will be placed strategically throughout campus and the city. Gotcha would be responsible for maintenance, repairs and placement of the bikes.

Rebecca Couch, UI director of parking and transportation services, told the council those with a UI email address will be allowed to ride at no cost for 30 minutes per day. After 30 minutes, UI students, staff and faculty will be required to pay $0.10 per minute. Community members can either purchase memberships - the prices have not been set - or pay $0.10 per minute, Couch said.

A transaction card is required to create an account.

Couch said the bike share system will add another transportation option on campus and reduce the number of vehicles parked on university property.

"As we see increased demand on parking lots, that became something we were focused on doing, so we're excited about Gotcha," Couch said.

Couch said it was important to collaborate with the city on the pilot program because UI students frequently visit downtown and other parts of Moscow.

"We want that community access," she said. "We don't want it to be a closed campus system where you can't take a bike and go park it downtown at a restaurant or to go shopping."

Data will be collected during the year-long pilot program to determine the viability of the bikes.

"I do think it will be very attractive and popular," Couch said.

Washington State University, which uses a bicycle share program through Gotcha, had immediate success, Couch said.

The UI is still working with the city on exploring electric scooters, but Couch said she is unsure whether or not those will be implemented during the pilot year or farther down the road.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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