Getting around downtown Riverside could be as easy as hopping on one of 55 bikes that will be available to rent at strategic spots throughout the area, city officials announced Friday.

“This truly is a proud moment that has been many years in the works,” Mayor Rusty Bailey said. “We know that pedestrian and bike traffic are major sales drivers for small businesses, and we look forward to seeing local residents, tourists and conventioneers using the bikes to visit shops, restaurants and museums.”

The mayor and council members unveiled the “Bike Riverside” program during a briefing on the Main Street pedestrian mall.

Under the program, the nearly five-dozen electric-pedal bikes will be accessible for cycling any time of the day. Bikes can be picked up and returned at seven locations, which can be quickly located at the BikeRiverside.org website.

According to city officials, a single 45-minute trip costs $2. If a user exceeds the allotted time, there’s an additional $2 charge for every 30-minute block that a person keeps the bike.

Day passes can be purchased for individuals who intend to pedal for longer periods.

“This is an affordable option that gives people another way to get out of their personal vehicles,” Councilman Mike Gardner said. “When fully operational, it will help us solve the `first mile, last mile’ issue that sometimes keeps people from using transit.”

The Riverside City Council entered into an agreement with St. Georges, Canada-based Bewegen Technologies Inc. to supply the bikes and set up the Internet-based fare system. GPS devices are used to keep track of the bikes and monitor their condition to deter theft and abuse.

The startup and first-year cost of the Bike Riverside program is $334,000, covered by state and federal transportation grants aimed at curbing pollution, according to the city.

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