The town's community bike share program is gearing up for its second season and the program's organizers are ready to ride.
The Simsbury Free Bike not-for-profit bike share with just six bikes and will begin the season on May 1 with 50 refurbished bikes for residents and their guests to borrow and ride for free.
Program director Larry Linonis and a team of volunteers have been busy preparing the bikes for public use. Each bike is painted blue with Simsbury Free Bike painted in gold letters. Some bikes have baskets and all bikes are equipped with safety lights, a bell, and a bike lock.
"This year we're much more prepared," Linonis said. "Some of us have been working all winter long to get the fleet prepared."
The program began with just one bicycle center at Andy's Market which closed its doors in March. This year bikes can be borrowed from Fitzgerald's Supermarket, Simsbury Town Hall, Bidwell's Yard, Garden & Pet Center, Flamig Farm, and Riverfront Miniature Golf & Ice Cream in Unionville. Bikes will also be available to guests at Simsbury Inn.
The organization plans on expanding its reach in the community and could eventually open locations in Granby and Avon.
"It is our hope to have bikes all along the trails from Massachusetts to New Haven," Linonis said.
To borrow a bike riders must be at least 18 years old and possess a photo ID to confirm their age. After riders sign a waiver, the bikes can be borrowed for 24 hours with just a $10 refundable deposit. Riders will be given helmets and bike locks with their rentals, Linonis said.
This year the program will run from May 1 through October 31.
Linonis said he hopes to see more people taking advantage of the program and the town's trails.
"It's a joy to see people out there riding the trail," Linonis said. "It's a great thing to have, it's a linear park."
This year the program will offer mountain bikes at the Flamig Farm bicycle center.
"We want to encourage people to use the dirt bike trails that exist in that area, it's very underutilized," Linonis said. Stratton Brook Park, The Ethel Walker School, Great Pond, and Onion Mountain Park all offer unpaved trails for riders.
The mountain bikes will not be equipped with baskets, Linonis added.
The program was initiated by Public Works Director Tom Roy who wanted to make use of dozens of bikes that had accumulated over the years at the department. The bikes had been confiscated by the police department or were abandoned. Now the bikes are coming from individual donors and businesses like Newington Bicycle and Pedal Power in Middletown.
The program has also had strong local support from businessman Steve Mitchell, the businesses acting as bicycle centers, and the Bicycle Cellar. The Andreo family, formerly the owners of Andy's Market, agreed to lease space in the Andy's Market plaza to the program for a nominal amount.
Other sponsors for the organization include: The Farmington Valley Trails Council
The Bicycle Cellar, The Red Stone Pub, Cedar Hill Home Inspection, D.E. Jacobs, Harvest Cafe, Mitchell Auto Group, Paine's Inc. , Sarah Byrnes Goldsmith, The Simsbury Inn, Flamig Farm, and Martocchio Music.
Simsbury Free Bike and Connecticut Adaptive Cycling are both part of the Children and Adult Mobility Project, a not-for-profit organization that serves people with disabilities in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. CAMP President Kenneth Messier approached Simsbury Free Bike organizers when the town was unable to launch the program because of insurance reasons.
For more information about the program email firstname.lastname@example.org or visite the Simsbury Free Bike Facebook page.