HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — If you're visiting Huntington and want to take a two-wheeled cruise around the city, your ship has come in.
Well, actually, your good, used bicycle locked up downtown will soon be ready for you to ride.
Huntington bicycle commuter Jeffrey A. Muth Jr. has teamed up with the Berlin, Germany-based group, Bike Surf, to bring bicycle sharing to the city.
A computer programmer who has been actively cycling in the city for the past five years, Muth said he's excited to bring in the program which would keep bicycles locked up downtown for guests to use.
Bike Surf has spread to eight different countries including Germany, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Chile, Netherlands, Greece and Norway. Although bike share programs exist in most U.S. cities, Huntington is the first U.S. city to try this particular bike share program.
Known for its simplicity and low startup cost, Bike Surf allows interested users to log onto the web site www.bikesurf.org/huntingtonwva/bikes , select a bike, the dates you want to rent it from and then select borrow. The person then is emailed the combination to unlock the bike that is located in a public place (like the bicycle rack at Pullman Square). The bicyclist must bring the bike back and lock it up after their time of use is finished.
The rental fee for the bicycle use is "donate-what-you-can" and reservations for now must be three days in advance.
Muth said he found out about the program from fellow cyclist and cycle activist Dan Taylor, who helped with Huntington's bicycle map, and other bicycle events.
Muth said he thought the program with low-overhead and startup costs was a perfect way for Huntington to get a bike share going in the increasingly bicycle-friendly city.
"I feel that Huntington is poised for growth in the bicycling community," Muth said. "We have Critical Mass, and we have some great groups like ACE (Ashland Cycling Enthusiasts) and we have Tour de Path. It really is poised and ready, we just need to get more people on board. The donation-based only bike share will help with that."
Bicycle sharing programs have continued to gain traction around the world. In the U.S., major cities from Minneapolis to Miami Beach have more than 700 bicycles in its share fleet, Washington D.C. has 1,100 and New York City is the largest in the U.S. when Citi Bike started with 6,000 bicycles available at 330 stations around the city.
Muth said Bike Surf Hunting ton is still in its infancy (they have one available bicycle for use), and thus need donations of bicycles, and any interested volunteers.
"Right now it is me, and Dan is helping out where possible," Muth said. "We need some volunteers to help with the various aspects, the maintenance, advertising and technical issues and such." Currently, Huntington's only bicycle share program is Eco Cycle, which is a free bike loan program at Marshall University that now has 13 bicycles available only for students, staff and facility to check out with their MU ID and a valid debit/credit card for day usage. Go online at http://www.marshall.edu/ sustainability to find out more about that program.
As far as the general city, the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District has plans to implement a bicycle share program at some point at its locations at Heritage Station and the Ritter Park Activity Center.
Muth, a computer programmer who works for Support.com doing home network support, said he's excited to get Bike Surf off the ground here and to get more folks out enjoying all of the benefits of cycling.
"I think there are a couple of things that it helps with, of course, the fitness level where Huntington was once declared the most obese city in the country but I also think having more bicycles helps motorists have more awareness as to the fact that there are more cyclists out there and to be more careful."
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com