A free bike-share program started in August at Gulf State Park will require a bit of tech savvy to participate.
“They are what we call ‘smart bikes,’ but that doesn’t mean they are electric bikes,” Chandra Wright of Valor Hospitality said. “They are single-speed. They have an associated app. They have a solar-powered lock so users who want to use the bikes will have to download an app called Bloom, which is available on Apple and Android devices.”
Valor is the company hired to run the Lodge, restaurants and cabins per its agreement with the state through the Gulf State Park project. The state has denied Lagniappe’s request to unveil financial terms and other provisions of Valor’s 22-year contract. Wright is the director of environmental and educational initiatives for Valor.
“It’s part of the Valor Hospitality management agreement to manage the new assets in the park,” Wright said. “We were required to implement a bike-share program. It’s really to give people more ways to access the park without having them get in their cars to drive from location to location.”
For starters, the bikes are available at the Lodge, Eagle’s Loop trailhead, Gulf Oak Ridge trailhead, Woodside Restaurant and the Interpretive Center near the Beach Pavilion. There are just 50 bikes now, but another 150 are on order.
There are a few steps before you can pedal off onto the backcountry trail or over to the Lodge for lunch. Downloading the app will require setting up an account using your name, email, phone number and credit card to select a payment plan.
“The payment plan is set up where it’s basically a free plan for three hours and so we’re providing you three hours of free access,” Wright said. “If you keep the bike out longer than that there’s a $5-per-hour charge. And there’s additional charges if there are damages to the bike or you don’t park it back at a designated station or if the bike goes missing.”
To get a bike, patrons will use the app to scan a QR code on the bike to unlock it. Each person wanting to ride a bike must have the app on their phone as well.
“You can only unlock one bike at a time with your phone,” Wright said. “If you have a couple and only one of them has a smartphone you can’t unlock two bikes. They’ll each have to unlock their own because the bike is connected to the app so we know who has what bike.”
The program will expand when the new bikes arrive and are stationed at new locations around the park.
“What we’re trying to do is put bike-share bikes at the most popular places around the park like the trailheads,” Wright said. “Future locations will be in the Nature Center area of the campground, maybe some of the other trailheads [and] park headquarters will probably have a few.”
Alabama state law requires riders under 16 years old have to wear helmets, but Valor is not supplying those. Bikes are only available to riders 16 and older.
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