Winston-Salem’s new bike-share service launched in late May, as Triad City Beat previously reported. Matthew Burczyk, the city of Winston-Salem’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, answers a few questions about the project.
Why isn’t the bike-share service free?
It all comes down to finances. Besides my time and the city’s time, the city of Winston-Salem isn’t putting any money into this. The National Cycling Center is really doing this. They identified the sponsors. It’s usually not a city paying for a program. In New York, it’s CitiBank, and they have CitiBikes. Here, Flow and the National Cycling Center are the title sponsors. The [user] fees aren’t meant to recoup the costs. The fees only account — if you’re doing well, you’ll get 20 percent back. Linking it to your credit card, that’s to make sure the bike doesn’t disappear. The annual fee of $30 is probably the cheapest in the country. The Cycling Center won’t be able to make a lot of money. It’s not unique to Winston; bike-shares across the country operate that way.
Considering that the program is accessed through a phone app, what happens if your phone dies?
If your phone should die, you can lock up your bike. Then, when you charge your phone, you’ll call Zagster. They can credit you that time after you locked up your bike. [The author confirms through experience that the company’s customer service is willing to make this accommodation.] They want people to trust the system. We want happy customers. The traditional system is there’s a kiosk where you pay. Sometimes those break down. At least with the cell phone, everyone has their own phone.
If you don’t have a smart phone, can you still use the service?
You need a computer to sign up. Somewhere along the way you need a computer or a smart phone. You can use texting to unlock the bike once you’re signed up.
What would you say to people who want to try the bike share, but are harboring some self-doubt?
Between the signs at the stations and the instructions on the app, you can get most of the information you need, and if worse comes to worst the customer service line seems to answer most people’s questions.
For people who aren’t used to riding bikes downtown, you don’t have to ride too far. You can ride four or five blocks to a destination, and you don’t have to work up a sweat. Then, if you want to try going a little further, you can.