A program that offers free bicycles to use around town will need a new fleet after the last of the rides have not been returned.
Transit Planning Manager for the St. Joseph Metropolitan Planning Organization Chance Gallagher said the 27 bikes that were put out on racks for use this year have been either stolen or simply not returned to the racks after use.
“There is a chance people are using them,” Gallagher said. “I have not received any phone calls saying, ‘There’s a bike somewhere,’ in quite some time. So, somebody could be using them. Hopefully, they are and they’re getting good use out of them.”
The program started in 2017 with 40 bikes, which were purchased using funding from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention block grant that the City of St. Joseph Health Department received from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Gallagher said some of those bikes were lost due to repairs being needed.
“We had to put out less because of all of the repairs and whatnot. We pieced them together and that’s why 27 went out,” She said.
The MPO is working on obtaining a federal grant that will replace the fleet with improved bikes that would require less maintenance.
“Flat tires were crazy in the first set, but the bikes were so cheap that it was OK if they were stolen,” Gallagher said. “So, we’re looking for an alternative so we don’t have to have so many repairs on the chains and the tires.”
They also are looking into plans to minimize theft in the future, including a sort of check-out system that could involve working with the library or St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Maybe people come in and they either leave their license or they have a card that we distribute and they leave the card that has some information,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said the bikes were originally purchased with the mindset that they could all be stolen, but would still serve their purpose if they were getting use.
She said for the new fleet, the MPO has looked into GPS tracking systems, but was worried that the trackers wouldn’t work if they were inside of the bikes and could be removed if they were on the outside. She said that if the bikes are being parted out or chopped and sold for scrap, the GPS wouldn’t help.
The MPO is hoping to keep the solution affordable.
“Those systems that actually have the locks and the apps and all that are very expensive, way more than the money we’ve leveraged,” Gallagher said. “So, we’re trying to find an inexpensive way to do it.”
Gallagher expects to have new bikes on the racks by next season. She said there are currently seven racks around town, four of which are on Missouri Western State University’s campus.
If a bike marked with “Pony Express Bike Share” is seen not in use, it can be reported to the MPO by calling 816-866-0049.