Aurora to launch bike rental program next month

  • Eric Gallt, Aurora's traffic engineer, shows an example of the rental bikes that will be available next month at three downtown stations.

    Eric Gallt, Aurora's traffic engineer, shows an example of the rental bikes that will be available next month at three downtown stations. COURTESY OF AMY ROTH

By Amy Roth
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 5/25/2016 2:48 PM

Earlier this month, Aurora leaders cut the ribbon on a new protected bike lane running through downtown. Now they want to help put riders on it.

A one-year contract with Zagster, Inc., headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., was approved Tuesday by the city council to make 18 rental bicycles available at three downtown stations.


The cost of each station is $10,800 per year, and the contract is renewable for up to three years.

The plan is to have the bikes in circulation by June 10, said Eric Gallt, city traffic engineer.

One station will be set up near city hall, at 44 E. Downer Place, to encourage use by city employees, he said.

Two other possible locations are near the Richard and Gina Santori Public Library at River and Benton streets and near the Aurora Transportation Center on North Broadway.

Zagster was founded in 2007 in Philadelphia and is the "largest and fastest-growing bike share provider in the United States," working with more than 130 communities, its website says. Zagster's bike share program is in use in such cities as Cleveland, Albuquerque and Carmel, Ind.

Aurora's bike rental fees are still under consideration. Gallt said the first half-hour most likely will cost $3 with a charge of $3 per hour after that. The recommended cost for a monthly pass is $20, and a seasonal pass is recommended to cost $60.

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The city will be looking into sponsorships to help defray the upfront cost of the bikes and stations. "We should see about 90 percent of the rental fees come back to us," he said, adding that the city does not expect the rental fees to cover the upfront cost in the beginning. "The best problem we could have is that they will get overused and we will have to expand," he said.

Zagster also partners with universities and businesses like NAI Hiffman, a leasing, management and investment firm in Naperville.

"Overall, it's working out great," said Jennifer Lewand, property assistant for NAI Hiffman. "We just started out with it last year. Each employee gets 10 free one-hour rides per month."

Out of about 1,500 employees, more than 100 use 12 Zagster bikes. She added that there haven't been many riders in the past few weeks because of chilly temperatures. When the weather turns cold, NAI Hiffman, in the Naperville Woods Office Center, stores them for the winter.

Gallt said the city has not yet made a decision about storing Aurora's bikes for the winter. "We've seen temperatures in the 50s and 60s until Christmas, and we've seen 80 degrees in March," he said. "But the bikes and racks are light enough to put into hibernation if we need to."


The city will not require riders to wear helmets, but downtown bike shop All Spoked Up will have helmets available to rent, Gallt said.

The city decided to go with Zagster after the bidding process showed that the cost of Zagster was lowest "as far as the capital upfront costs," Gallt said. And, if the bikes are not being used at the end of the contract year, "we could step out of the program," he added.

To use a bike, riders can unlock, ride and return a bike with their mobile phones using the Zagster app. Aurora's bikes will have baskets, automatic lights, adjustable seats, a bell and full reflectors. Riders also will be able to lock the bikes if they decide to stop along the way before returning them to one of the stations.

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