180505_bikes

The Pony Express Bike Share program will be returning in about two weeks and could see expansion this summer.

The Pony Express Bike Share will soon be launching for the second season and could see more rides on the road this summer.

The program was created last year as a way to provide transportation to citizens and tourists navigating the city.

Last year, 40 bikes were put out on seven racks across the west side of the city, but this year that may change.

MPO Planning Manager Caitlin Zibers said nearly all of the bikes that were put on racks last year were returned to racks.

She said the bikes are being upgraded before they are launched later this month.

“The original purchase was a standard beach cruiser bicycle with an aluminum frame and the standard wheels and we realized, once they were released that there were a lot of issues with the tires going flat,” Zibers said.

She said the city is working with the bike supplier to have the tires upgraded, which would mean fewer bikes would have to be off the roads and in the maintenance shop.

Bike racks will be located in eight locations this year on the west side of the city:

The transit station at Sixth and Angelique streets

The Buchanan County Courthouse at 411 Jules St.

Felix Street Square at Eighth and Felix streets

Patee Park at Ninth and Seneca streets

The Radisson Hotel at 102 S. Third Street

The Remington Nature Center at 1502 MacArthur Drive

The St. Joseph Visitor Center at 911 Frederick Ave.

Zibers said a new partner will be helping to expand the program this year.

Missouri Western State University’s Student Government Association has voted to buy three new racks that will go on campus and 18 new bikes that will go into circulation, according to External Relations Director Evan Banks.

Banks said the partnership will help to bring the university and the city closer together.

“I think one of the biggest mistakes was moving the university away from Downtown,” Banks said. “It’s kind of created a disconnect between the two entities and as many things as we can do to try and bridge that gap, I think would be beneficial.”

He said the effort is part of a university initiative to provide more reasons for students to hang out in the city.

“We’ve had a little bit of a struggle trying to get students to stay and do stuff,” Banks said. “By providing additional transportation and maybe a free means to get to Downtown we might be able to bridge that gap and also do our part to try and reduce our carbon footprint.”

He said he will use the bikes all the time when they arrive.

Zibers said the purchase is not made quite yet, but she hopes to have the new bikes and racks in action in June.

She hopes to have the existing bike share racks filled by May 18, which is also the 10th annual Bike to Work Day.

Participants can register and then ride their bike to work on that date to receive prizes and get discounts from bike-friendly businesses.

“All they need to do is put together a team with their employer, ride in that morning and then we usually have a get together afterward,” Zibers said.

Prizes include T-shirts and thermal fanny packs for keeping water cool while riding.

A package pickup will be held Friday, May 11, and people can register and see more information on the MPO’s website at stjoempo.org.

Brendan Welch can be reached at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.