Public bike sharing program launched in Lakin, Deerfield

New bicycles stand ready to be used at one of the racks at Kearny County Hospital in Lakin. The bike share program allows people to check out bicycles for free in Lakin and Deerfield.

By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications

Fifteen white and baby blue bicycles are available for public use in Lakin and Deerfield as part of new bike share program developed by the Kearny County Wellness Coalition.

“The community has been incredibly excited about it,” said Krysta Harvey, KCWC chairperson, noting that the Coalition’s Facebook post about the new bikes last week was by far their most popular social media post ever.

In early June, the Coalition launched BikeShareMaps.com, a free bicycle rental service in Lakin and Deerfield.

Bicycles and special racks were put in place last week and are ready to go now.

BikeShare.Maps.com is available for immediate registration, and allows users to locate and rent, at no charge, a bicycle from one of five unique bike rack locations.

Currently, there are nine bikes available in Lakin and six in Deerfield. There are four bike racks in Lakin, including the hospital, the pool, library and an empty lot on the south end of Main Street, and one at the Community Rec Center in Deerfield.

To use the bikes, a person needs to register online at www.BikeShareMaps.com, a process that can be done using a phone or mobile device. After a user verifies their name, phone number and email address, and agrees to the terms of use, which includes a liability waiver, they can check out a bike from one of the racks. A code is issued allowing the locked bike to open. When the bike is returned to a rack, a new code is entered to reengage the lock for the next person.

“It’s great, because you can do it even at night. No one has to be there to help you,” she said.

New App Developed

BikeShareMaps.com was developed by MountainHawk Corporation, a technical consulting company based in Lakin, and the KCWC, a group of community stakeholders committed to providing access to healthier choices to all residents.

MountainHawk Corp. was hired by the Coalition to provide access to BikeShareMaps.com and establish a local Bike Share Committee that will be responsible for maintaining the bikes and the rack locations.

The first 15 bicycles were purchased by the Coalition but Harvey said they will take bike donations in the future. Donated bikes also can be customized and added to the number of choices at each rack.

Trav’s Body Shop agreed to donate time and materials to match the paint scheme to all of the Bike Share bikes to help easily identify them and reduce the possibility of theft.

Harvey anticipates the bikes will be used by a wide demographic in the communities.

“We’ve heard from all ages, from teenagers on up to people who are retired who want to use the bikes,” she said.

Desire for walking/biking options

Harvey said the development of the bike share program grew from community input desiring more walking and biking paths. She said while the Coalition was working on creating a walking and biking master plan for the communities, the Pathways to a Healthy Kansas grant created an opportunity to work with Thrive Allen County, one of the most well established wellness coalitions in the state, on the bike share program.

“They talked to us about their bike share and how easy it is to quickly start up, versus building a hiking or biking trail that takes a lot of resources and time to arrange things like property agreements,” Harvey said. “They said the bike share is simple and quick to get started so we applied for funding through the Pathways grant to fund our first set of bikes and racks.”

The Pathways to a Healthy Kansas, a BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas initiative, allows the Coalition to identify and implement multiple programs throughout the community, including the bike share program.

According to www.bcbsks.com, Pathways to a Healthy Kansas is the largest community grant program funded by the organization. It provides community coalitions with tools and resources needed to remove barriers and engage their communities in ways that enable healthy eating and tobacco-free, active living to become a way of life.

Grant funding includes a $100,000 coordination grant with the opportunity to apply for non-competitive implementation and achievements grant amounting to $400,000 for a total of $500,000 per community.

Harvey said Kearny County received the Pathways grant two years ago. The bike share program is just one aspect of what the communities are doing using a small portion of that grant.

Instructional Videos to be Created

To help people better understand how to use the bike share program and the app, MountainHawk is currently creating videos that demonstrate how to use the system. Once ready, the videos will be posted on the BikeShareMaps.com website, as well as the Kearny County Wellness Coalition Facebook page.

Harvey said there have been a few glitches, given that the program was built specifically for Kearny County from scratch. She said MountainHawk basically donated their time to create this app and are working with other communities to create similar programs elsewhere.

“We’re kind of their pilot site, so we’re working out all of the little kinks of the program. They are working through those things,” Harvey said.

So far, about 20 people per day have been checking out bikes since it went live on July 18.