St. Petersburg, FL -- As the Tampa Bay area continues to grow, it is becoming harder to get around. The city of St. Petersburg is now following Tampa's lead and changing the face of transportation.
On Tuesday, the greater downtown area will get 100 city bikes housed at 10 hubs. This is all part of the Coast Bike Share program that plans to expand its fleet in the coming months.
"There's a culture [in St. Pete] that's really booming with arts, food, and breweries. Everything screams bikes right now," said Eric Trull, director for Coast Bike Share. Trull is also in charge of Tampa's program which has 25,000 members after almost two years. He believes St. Petersburg will have an even bigger response.
"We really expect it to be larger here, really because of the connectivity and the grid system and trails," said Trull.
Downtown businesses hope Trull's suspicions are correct. Sarah Weaver is the owner of Bandit Coffee off Central Avenue in the Kenwood neighborhood. Her business is at the furthest point on Central where a bike hub will be located.
"As a business owner since we're right outside downtown, it really creates a great sense of connection because there is more to our city that just downtown," said Weaver.
10 News also spoke to bike shop owners in the downtown area. They told 10 News they are not worried about competition with the bike share program. According to several bike shop owners, these programs can actually help bike shops get the word out about the importance of cycling.
The first 10 hubs will be located along the waterfront and Central Avenue corridor. One of the hubs is off 2nd Avenue next to the St. Petersburg Museum. This is also where the Cross Bay Ferry Terminal will be.
The idea is to provide drivers another option to cross the bay. For example, if there is an accident on the Howard Frankland Bridge, downtown residents could rent a bike and park it at the 2nd Avenue hub. From there, they could take a 50 minute ferry ride into Tampa and rent another bike on that side. The Coast Bike Share membership is reciprocal for St. Pete and Tampa.
The average cost for the program is $8.00/hour prorated. You can also pay monthly or yearly. The Cross Bay Ferry will cost $10.00 one way.
"We're trying to get people more options to get around town besides in the car," said Evan Mory, the City of St. Petersburg's Director for Transportation.
Unlike Tampa, the city of St. Pete bought the bikes and infrastructure and will share half of the profit with the operator. Some city council members said the $1.5 million cost could go to other issues like the sewage system or bus routes.
"We hope and anticipate it to go over very well. We have no reason to believe that we should have concerns about the success in St. Petersburg," said Mory.
In the future, Mory hopes to move forward with a complete street project where there would be separate vehicle and bike lanes for downtown.
In the coming months, there will be 300 bikes and 30 stations around the city.
(© 2016 WTSP)