Swan City Cycles is Here. Get on Our Bikes & Ride!

Fact: some of the most beautiful sites in Downtown Lakeland are best seen on two wheels, and if you live nearby, those two wheels also

The bike sharing station at Munn Park.

The bike sharing station at Munn Park.

make ideal transportation for many everyday tasks.

That’s why Shane Mahoney registered himself and his wife, Christina Ingrassia, with Swan City Cycles shortly after the bike sharing program began in December 2015.

“It’s awesome,” Mahoney says.

He typically walks to Florida Southern College or the Polk Museum of Art to check out a bike, and turns it in at his final destination. He often uses the bike sharing program multiple times daily for errands such as getting his hair cut or meeting with his accountant.

Several city agencies partnered with Zagster to bring bike sharing here. It’s fitting, since Lakeland was designated a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists in 2012, due to its commitment to cycling as a means of recreation and as a mode of transportation.

The bike sharing program could help the city reach the silver level as a bike friendly community, says Julie Townsend, executive director of the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority.

“Our commitment to Zagster is for two years, so hopefully we will have such overwhelming community support that we will need to continue the program and expand it,” Townsend says.

With 470 registered users as of April, Swan City Cycles is well on its way to reaching its goal of 1,000 by the end of the year.

ZagsterHere’s how bike sharing with Swan City Cycles works:

• Download the Zagster app on your smart phone and create an account that links to your credit or debit card.
• Enter the bike number you wish to ride.
• A code is sent to your phone, which you use to open your bike’s lockbox.
• Use the key in the lockbox to unlock your bike’s U-lock.
• Keep your key and U-lock with you to secure your bike when needed.
• When you’re done with your bike, return it to one of the Swan City Cycles stations and lock it up. Be sure to end your ride on the Zagster app, too.

Swan City Cycles has 35 bikes at seven bike stations throughout the city:

• The Lakeland Center
• The north end of Munn Park
• The city parking lot at Rose Street and Lake Avenue
• Polk Museum of Art
• Florida Southern College
• Dixieland

You can rent bicycles hourly for $3, monthly for $15, or annually for $25. Members can ride the bikes free for unlimited trips of up to an hour and a half. Trips lasting longer revert to the $3/hour fee.

Mahoney turns in the bike between errands to prevent going over the time limit. That is the intent, Townsend says. The program is designed to keep the bikes in circulation — ride one when you need it, but turn it in when you’re at your destination.

The bicycles are cruisers equipped with a basket on the front, an adjustable seat, and front/rear lights for riding at night. Fenders and chain guards will help keep you clean while riding, and seven gears of shifting make hilly areas easier to navigate.

Lakeland maybe a small city, but residents expect a lot of the same amenities found in large cities, Townsend says. Lakeland delivers in many ways, and bike sharing was just another way for the city to compete.

The program is important to Townsend, and she is diligent about getting user feedback.mayor on bike

“I have spoken to repeat users and first time users, but regardless they are all so happy that Lakeland has it,” she says.

The dashboard provided by Zagster allows Townsend to track the usage at stations, and the Munn Park station has the highest usage, “which is no surprise,” she says. The museum, Florida Southern College and Dixieland are close behind.

If a station is underperforming, it can be relocated it to another site.

The Future of Bike Sharing in Lakeland

Mahoney says he hopes popularity continues to grow so the city might see additional locations added. More stations could increase visibility and perhaps spur more users.

The program is the result of sponsorship from the City of Lakeland’s Community Redevelopment Agency and Lakeland Downtown Development Authority. Partners also include Lakeland Vision, Citrus Connection, the Polk Museum of Art, Lake Morton Neighborhood Association, First United Methodist and Florida Southern College.

Townsend has applied for grants to help offset the program’s costs, and additional sponsorships would be sought if the program expanded.

“We are trying to avoid asking the city to use general fund dollars” to maintain the program, she says.

You can learn more about Zagster and Swan City Cycles here.