Salem will take its bike-sharing program for another spin after a successful pilot season.
Salem Spins, a program that offers bicycles, free of charge, for use around the city, launched for the summer season last week.
The city's fleet of 20 bicycles is split between two hubs, at Salem State University and downtown, near the Hawthorne Hotel. Participants are free to use a bicycle for the day after leaving a credit card with an attendant as collateral and signing a waiver to absolve the city of any responsibility.
"It's important, given the traffic congestion in town," said Paul Marquis, Salem's energy and sustainability manager. "The ultimate hope here in Salem is that we can use this program to connect areas of Salem. ... We're hoping folks who would ordinarily drive downtown instead opt for a bicycle."
Last fall, Salem was awarded $25,000 from the Green Communities grant program, which went toward the purchase of the bike fleet.
The Salem State bike hub, located at the campus police station, is staffed by student workers; their wages are paid by the university. At the downtown location, bikes are checked in and out by front-desk staff at the Hawthorne Hotel.
The program runs without any funding from the city budget, Marquis said.
The beauty of the program is that it works for students and residents, as well as tourists, Mayor Kim Driscoll said.
It's perfect for visiting places within the city that are a little too far for walking, she said.
Salem Spins was launched in late September and ran for two months. On average, five bikes were used per day at Salem State, and two or three were used at the Hawthorne Hotel.
"Ridership was on the low side, but we didn't aggressively market the program because we wanted to work out the kinks," Marquis said.
The hotel loaned bikes to a mix of tourists and local residents. At Salem State, students are "clamoring" for more bike-sharing hours, he said.
"Part of the hope there is (students) would use bikes to shuttle between campuses, rather than jumping in their cars, which is usually the case," he said.
Throughout the pilot program, no damage was reported on the downtown bikes. Three bikes at Salem State had minor damage, such as flat tires and thrown chains, he said. The bicycles are locked and secured overnight.
The bikes, purchased from Salem Cycle, are a cross between a road and a mountain bike. Locks and helmets are available for each user, as well as wrenches to adjust the seat height.
Fees are charged to a participant's credit card only if they return the bike late or damaged.
Right now, Salem Spins is open only to people over the age of 18. But the city is considering changing that, Marquis said, as well as producing a bike map for participants and offering a "seasonal pass," where bikes could be used for more than one day at a time.
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
Bikes available at the Hawthorne Hotel, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., seven days a week
Bikes available at Salem State campus police station, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday
Available to riders over age 18
For more information, contact Paul Marquis at email@example.com.