PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the launch of Blue Bikes, a citywide bike rental program, Dec. 5.
New Orleans officials celebrated the official launch of a citywide bike rental program Dec. 5, opening 15 kiosks that dispense bright blue cruisers for hourly or annual use available 24 hours a day.
The city has selected 70 locations for the bike stations
, totaling 700 bikes, expected to roll out over the next several months. Depending on rider demand, the city could expand to 90 stations with 900 bikes.
Dubbed Blue Bikes, the program operates with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield with bikes from bike rental company Social Bikes, which has launched bike rental programs across the U.S. and Canada. According to City Hall, the program is funded entirely through sponsorships, ads and rental fees.
City officials and Social Bikes CEO Ryan Rzepecki are promoting the service as a public health tool and as an affordable mode of transportation — the service offers a lower-rate $20 annual plan for people who sign up using a Louisiana Purchase card — but not necessarily as a way for tourists to get around town. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, following a five-mile bike ride to a press conference along the Lafitte Greenway trail, hailed Blue Bikes as healthy and cost-effective way to get residents to and from work.
"It makes economic sense, it makes environmental sense, and it's good for health and wellness," said District D Councilmember Jared Brossett.
"Our most important purpose in putting this program together was creating affordable transportation for our citizens," New Orleans District A City Councilmember Susan Guidry told Gambit.
"That's the No. 1 priority with this."
"This is not the end. This is the beginning of a new public transit system in New Orleans," said Rzepecki, adding that the system is "not just for tourists."
"This is something local people can use to get to jobs, see friends, and explore the city in a different way," he said.
Here's how it works:
First, users must sign up through the Social Bikes app or website
and select a payment plan (see the breakdown below). To unlock a bike, riders enter a six digit account number and four digit PIN into the bike's rear-mounted keypad.
Hit the "hold" button when stopping, and use the included U-lock to lock the bike to a rack. When finished with the ride, return it to any Blue Bikes kiosk.
Monthly passes are $15, which allow for one hour of riding per day through that time. A pay-as-you-go rate is available for $8 an hour. All the time used is prorated to the minute.
Residents also can sign up using the code "BlueBikes504" to get the first month for $2.
A $20 reduced rate yearly pass is available for residents who sign up using their Louisiana Purchase number.
Blue Bikes have GPS tracking, automatic front and rear lights, and a three-speed internal hub.