Sharing bikes their own way in Jackson, Wyoming

September 8, 2015

Sarah Sanders + Michael Capshaw-Taylor, West Coast events crew

Friends of Pathways staff members with a bike sharing bike in Jackson, Wyoming.

Renting a bike has never been easier with bike sharing programs popping up in many U.S. cities. For those lucky enough to live near one you can walk out your front door and often be at a bike rental station in minutes. We tend to think of all bike sharing systems as the same?many bikes parked in large kiosks in strategically chosen locations around a city. But in Jackson, Wyoming they’re taking a different approach.

Friends of Pathways, a non-profit that works towards safer pathways and trail systems in Jackson, has been working on launching a bike sharing system for the last five years. “Our’s will be a dockless system,” says Jack Koehler, program director of Friends of Pathways, “it’s free range with no location where you have to leave the bikes.” Koehler says that they didn’t want to solve the bike share parking problem without also looking at the parking problem for all bikes. So, instead of having dedicated parking just for bike sharing bikes, they’re adding parking for all kinds of bikes.

The access code panel that allows you to unlock a bike. 

The system in Jackson, which was piloted earlier this summer, allows bikes to be locked to any rack and rented at any time using a monthly or annual membership. Bikes can be found using a mobile app and users receive an access code that, once entered, unlocks a u-lock. “We found that the mobile app and web app make it easy to find the bikes,” Koehler says.

The pilot program ran from July 15 – August 5 and the results were very positive:

  • 382 users
  • 1,983 miles ridden
  • 816 total trips
  • Over 104,000 calories burned

Though Jackson is known as a skiing destination in winter, summer is actually its busy season. That is thanks to nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. When the crowds come, driving around becomes slow and impractical. “It doesn’t make sense to drive at all when in town,” says Katherine Dowson, executive director of Friends of Pathways, “with all of our pathways and bike lanes we can get around much faster by bike during our busy season.”

Before they even launched their program, Friends of Pathways commissioned a study about the feasibility of a bike sharing program in Jackson. With that data and the success of this summer’s test run, they feel that they’re ready to tackle their next big hurdle: funding the program. Their hope is that it will be completely funded by public resources.

One thing they’re not worried about is public support. “In 2011 it was seen as bikes and now its seen as transportation,” Koehler says, “The town has changed to see it as a need to be focused on.”

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