FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Officials in the City of Fort Smith gathered Thursday to launch a low-cost bike-sharing service to areas where the majority of residents report not having a vehicle or access to public transportation.

According to a press release, “Ride 4 SMILIES” will operate from eight stations with shared bikes that can be accessed using an app called “Movatic.” After downloading the app and creating an account, residents can scan a QR code on the bike, ride it where they need to go, then return and lock it up at the station.

“We are excited to give our residents the opportunity to experience the many benefits of cycling,” said Fort Smith Mayor George McGill. “From picking up a few items from the convenience store to simply taking a ride and enjoying the outdoors, bike-sharing is a healthy way to travel.”

Initially, one-hour rides will be free to encourage participation. Over time, the release says researchers will test pricing and incentive strategies to develop a sustainable revenue model that balances profitability and affordability.

Due to supply chain issues, traditional bikes will be used until the electric bikes arrive.

Reese Brewer, director of the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the group is eager to learn how the SMILIES bike-sharing pilot program can offer diverse communities in north Fort Smith reliable, equitable and healthy transportation choices.

“The program must be reflective of the neighborhoods that it will serve,” she said. “Rather than placing brand new, sparkling SMILIES bikes at pre-determined locations, we intentionally sought out public input to guide where the SMILIES bike-share would best meet the community’s needs. Our primary goal is to partner with the community and find the best bike-share model and structure that changes lives.”

The project is funded through a $1 million National Science Foundation grant awarded to the University of Arkansas College of Engineering. The study is titled “Shared Micromobility For Affordable-Accessible Housing,” or SMILIES.

For more information, visit the project’s webpage.