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Bike Share Program Launches in Rogue Valley

The Rogue Valley just got five new bike racks. One in Ashland, two in Medford and two more in White City.

2.16. NEWS.ZAGSTERAll are typical looking bike racks armed with a fleet of yellow bicycles, all identical cruisers that appear similar to any other bike in their class, except with a few modifications behind the seat.

And here’s where it becomes news: All are also equipped with a little number pad and lock box where the user can key in a code to unlock their bike; the valley’s only bikeshare program, operated by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, Zagster.

Zagster operates bike share programs in larger cities including Boston, Baltimore and Dallas and is now expanding operations into Southern Oregon.

To access a bike, users register online with a cell phone number and email, and then gain access to any bike available in the specific rack. Once at the stand, the user types in a combo they receive via text or email and the number box spits out a key to unlock the bike. Since every bike is tracked and synced to the national system, the company is able to tell which bikes are returned and which go missing.

The bikes were tagged and primed at the end of July so Rogue Valley cyclists that want to use pedal power will have to create an account online and pay an annual registration fee of $20 before they can get rolling. The annual fee changes from city to city and is as high as $75 in some places.

Zagster isn’t the first bike sharing system nor is it even the first to have come to Southern Oregon. In the 1990s, Ashland launched the Green Bike Project, in which a fleet of painted green bicycles were left on the streets for anyone to use. It was inspired by a similar program in Portland, with yellow bikes. Both programs had the same fate: with no party interested in maintenance, the bikes fell into disrepair and were lost.

Zagster’s program hopes to eliminate that problem with extensive geotracking, a technology that will be able to properly gauge how efficient the specific rack is and expand if need be.

Sonny, a customer service rep for the company, said that they have a strong analytics team that tracks how many bikes are being used and how many more people are trying to access them.

“We are different from other companies because we just charge one fee,” he says.

While mostly going after larger metropolitan areas, Zagster has begun implementing systems around university towns with heavy foot traffic.

With five locations already running, the valley could easily see the addition of more racks if the number crunching squad records heavy useage of the borrowed bicycles.

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