People who work, live or just play downtown will be able to use a rental bike to get from the state office building to a Haymarket restaurant, from downtown apartments to campus beginning this summer.

The city has raised enough money, through a federal grant and four large donations, to begin a bike share program, starting with 100 bikes and 15 stations.

Bike share programs, operating in more than 80 American cities or on university campuses, allow people to rent a bike for a short period of time, half an hour to a couple of hours, for quick transportation.

It is an automated, self-service bike rental, geared to short, one-way trips, said Kellee Van Bruggen, a city transportation planner who has been working on the program. “We like to call it bike sharing, not bike hoarding,” she added.

Lincoln’s bike share program will be available downtown, including the Haymarket and West Haymarket area, on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln downtown and East Campus, and at Nebraska Innovation Campus, formerly State Fair Park.

The city hopes to begin the bid process early next year for the bikes and docking station equipment and for a company to operate the bike share program, Van Bruggen said.

The program should be up and running by mid-July, allowing the vendor time to work out any problems before UNL students arrive for the fall semester, said Dave Cary, Planning Department acting director.

The movement to get a bike share program started in Lincoln began last spring with a UNL student government resolution, followed by a daylong educational workshop in September.

City planning staff has since rounded up funding -- a $600,000 federal Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant and more than $150,000 in local donations -- to purchase the equipment and pay for operations for two years.

The city will select from two basic types of equipment as part of the vendor selection process. There are smart dock systems, where the technology is on the docking station where bikes are parked, and smart bike systems, where the technology is on the bike, and bikes can be locked on to any bike rack.

Most of the 15 stations will be across downtown, from 21st Street to the West Haymarket and City Campus to J Street.

There will likely be two stations on UNL’s East Campus and one at Innovation Campus.

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The bike share program, which uses heavy, durable bikes, is aimed at teenagers and adults because of the size of the bikes, Cary said.

The color of the bikes? That depends on the vendor, since they usually supply the bikes, said Cary. “But we are placing our bets on red,” he said.

Lincoln’s bike share program will be the third in the state. Omaha has had a program for four years, and the University of Nebraska at Kearney launched a bike share program in October.

Bike share programs, which began in 1965 in Amsterdam, have become more common in American cities the last five years, Cary said.

Providing this service has become a calling card of sorts. If you have it, you are seen as a city on the cutting edge, a city that is attractive to young people, he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.

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Reporter

Nancy Hicks reports on Lincoln city government, but she’s been following the leaders of local and state government for more than 40 years.

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