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FOX 11 Investigates: Green Bay's new and improved bike program

A sign for Green Bay's "Green Bike" program in 2008. A decade later, the city has entered into a bike-sharing agreement with Lime Bike. The company is expected to have a fleet of 350 smart bikes for rent throughout the city.

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- Green Bay and green bikes seem to go hand-in-hand.

This summer, city leaders entered into a new bike-sharing agreement with Lime Bike. But it's hardly the city's first attempt at a bike program.

Green bikes first came onto the scene a decade ago. Green Bay's free "Green Bike" program included a fleet of 18 bikes that hit the streets with high hopes.

"I have great faith in the community of Green Bay that these bikes will be treated properly," Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt said when announcing the program in 2008.

That faith was shaken within two weeks. Nearly half of the bikes went missing. The next year, the city tried again. This time with two dozen bikes. Despite locking the bikes at night, nearly all of the bikes disappeared with two weeks.

"I think there was just a few people who took advantage of the program and really caused us to take another look at it," Schmitt told FOX 11 in 2009.

The city gave it one more try in 2010, with 20 bikes available but they had to be signed out. After that, the program faded until this summer when Lime Bike arrived.

"I think our goals 10 years ago were still to be more a bike-able, more health-conscious community," Schmitt told FOX 11 Investigates. "I don’t know that we thought through the maintenance and the tracking of the program."

FOX 11 Investigates sat down with Mayor Jim Schmitt to talk about the Lime Bike program.

When asked how the program is different from the previous program, Schmitt replied, "In the past, we just had bikes that people could use. Look, that was, it wasn’t that long ago but it was before there were smart phones, before there was a built-in maintenance program. And the bikes are just maintenance free. There’s just a whole lot of things that are different 10 years later."

Matt Buchanan from the city's economic development office showed FOX 11 how the Lime Bike works.

"There’s a locking mechanism on the back tire so after you lock it up you are done using it. You’re no longer charged to use that bike. You unlock the bike with a smart phone app that’s how it works," Buchanan said.

When asked how this program is different from the city's past effort, Buchanan replied, "The difference here is we have built in accountability. If you want to use a Lime Bike, you have the smart phone app. It’s got your information and knows who you are. It’s got your credit card information for when you’re renting the bike. So, if you were to do something improper with the bike, they know who has it."

According to the city's agreement with Lime Bike, the company will be the "...exclusive provider of bike share services" in the city for "up to 3 years..."

Lime Bike will deploy a "minimum of 350" "smart bikes" that can "...be tracked by GPS..."

The bikes will be placed throughout the city and available for rent. The cost to the rider is $1 per half hour. Students and low-income people are half-price. Buchanan says the cost to the city is nothing.

"Most bike share operations, cities spend upwards of $60,000, $80,000 to $100,000 to have a bike share. With Lime Bike, there’s no expense from the city," Buchanan said.

The city is providing Lime Bike with some space to use for a few months. The Redevelopment Authority is allowing the company to use the vacant Schauer and Schumacher building for up to six months.

"They’re just looking for some temporary storage to put bikes. They’re not going to be operating an office out of there. They’re not going to be operating any kind of major facility there. It’s just temporary storage," Buchanan said.

That part of the program didn't sit well with Alderman Chris Wery.

"We don’t offer that up to start-up companies here, other companies in the area. We decided to give it to them. I think we should have at least charged them some kind of rent," Wery said.

Wery served on the council during the city's failed green bike program.

When asked why they city's previous bike program failed, Wery responded, "Well, I think perhaps the city tried to run it. There was really no way to monitor where the bikes were."

He's hopeful Lime Bike will have a different fate.

"They know our history and they say they can do it so we’ll give them a chance," Wery said.

"There’s that built-in accountability," Buchanan said. "If you want to use a bike, they know who you are. There’s that safety, built-in feature that we feel will keep people treating the bikes properly."

The Lime Bike program is expected to officially launch later this month.

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