It’s finally happening! Louisville’s long-awaited bike share program now has a name, sponsors, and a launch date. Mayor Greg Fischer, Bike Louisville’s Rolf Eisinger, and other officials announced the phase one launch this month. Louisville’s system will be called, quite appropriately, LouVelo, a portmanteau of the city’s name and the French word for bike. (It’s pronounced like Lou-Jello, but with a ‘V’.) A countdown clock on the LouVelo website indicates the system will launch on the morning of May 15.
The initial rollout will include 305 bikes distributed around 28 stations. Members can check out bikes from Downtown to the University of Louisville, and east to Nulu and Butchertown. This fall, another 15 stations should come online, including many at UL’s Belknap Campus. Later phases call for extending the map farther west into the Russell and Portland neighborhoods and east into the Highlands.
“The wonderful thing about a program like this is we can keep expanding it,” Fischer said at the announcement. “The larger it gets the more virtuous the cycle becomes and people can get to more and more different places.” He hinted that long-term, LouVelo could increase in size significantly. “We’re off to a good start with 300 [bikes],” he said. “There’s no reason why it can’t be 500 or a thousand, and then two thousand.”
The concept of bike share is simple and well tested across the country. Users can check out bikes at one station and return them at another to ease short trips or bridge gaps in the transit network. A worker in Downtown could ride to Nulu for lunch or a person taking a bus to Broadway could ride to a job on Main Street. Tourists can get around without their cars or businesspeople could pedal to a meeting across Downtown. The system also works well for local residents who can ride without worrying about their personal bikes. Bike share is not for day-long leisure riding, but a part of Louisville’s transportation system.
You’ll be able to buy annual, monthly, or daily passes to check out bikes. Thirty-minute single rides are also available for $3.50. Founding Memberships are on sale now for a year’s worth of 60-minute rides for $99. All rates will announced at the launch. More information is available on the LouVelo website.
LouVelo bikes are a little different than your typical bike. First of all, they’re sturdy. These bikes are built to last and include GPS tracking to avoid theft or loss. Included are lights, a bell, fenders and chain guards, and a basket. Once you get riding, though, you’ll catch on quick. LouVelo bikes are like bikes used in other cities including New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Stations are easy to use and include a solar-powered kiosk where you can buy day passes or check out bikes. Smartphone apps will also be available showing station locations and capacity so you know if there’s a spot to dock your bike. The CycleFinder and Transit apps will track ride information, help plan routes, and allow online payment.
Stations should begin appearing soon. Be sure to snap a photo and send it our way if you see crews toting around a bike station!
Funds for the bike share program came from a $1.1 million federal Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) grant and $273,000 from Metro Louisville. Sponsorships, user fees, and $50,000 annually from the city will keep the system up and running. Bike Louisville partnered with CycleHop to maintain the system and PBSC to provide the bikes.
A big congratulations goes to the city’s team that has worked for years to establish a bike share system here. Despite several setbacks and delays along the way, a launch on the horizon makes the wait feel worth it.