Photo courtesy of Zagster.
Photo courtesy of Zagster.

The Bulfinch Cos., a commercial real estate investment firm, said Zagster has just started providing bike-sharing services at Bulfinch’s Cambridge Discovery Park, a roughly 30-acre office and research campus located near the Alewife MBTA station in Cambridge.

Zagster aims to be to bikes what Zipcar is to automobiles as it looks to convince hotels, universities, and apartment buildings that a bike-sharing program is a desirable amenity. In October, Zagster said it had raised $1 million in funding in a round led by LaunchCapital.

For its part, Bulfinch is positioning Cambridge Discovery Park as an ideal venue for environmentally conscious office tenants who will benefit from the convenience of numerous on-site amenities.

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“Bike sharing is the perfect amenity for Cambridge Discovery Park,” Michael Wilcox, vice president of leasing at Bulfinch, said in a statement. “We took many measures to ensure the property offered an abundance of green space, gave back to the environment, and had buildings that were LEED certified. Now, with Zagster, we’re helping to make sure that how tenants get to, from, and around the property is as sustainable as possible as well.”

Other Zagster clients include the Hyatt Regency Cambridge hotel; University Park at MIT, a mixed-use complex in Cambridge that includes residences, offices, and retail; and One Back Bay, a residential building in Boston; said Timothy Ericson, cofounder and chief executive of Zagster.

Initially, there are six Zagster bikes at Cambridge Discovery Park, he said. More bikes will be added as demand warrants.

A press release explained how Zagster works: Bikes are “available on-demand for up to a 24-hour period. Each bike contains a bike lock with the key stored inside a lock box. After joining Zagster at www.zagster.com, riders simply text ‘start’ plus the bike number (e.g. ‘start 46’) to a phone number. A confirmation message with the access code for the lock box is texted back. This action reserves the bike for the remainder of the day or until the bike is returned. Riders text ‘end’ to the same number, which releases the bike for the next rider.”

Zagster traces its roots to the Philadelphia, where it was first known as CityRide. Its early efforts aimed to duplicate bike-sharing programs in European cities. Those programs generally relied on outdoor advertising companies to subsidize operations. Over time, the company tweaked its business model as it saw a niche to operate bike-sharing programs for the owners of hotels and office and residential complexes. In 2011, the company moved to the Boston area. It also changed its name to Zagster.

According to Ericson, Zagster differs from public bike share systems, which are typically designed for short, one-way trips. Zagster focuses on users who need the bike for longer periods of time and who are making round trips because the bikes are at the places they live, work, and visit.

In Ericson’s view, Zagster is “complementary” to a program such as Hubway, which operates a bike-sharing service in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville.

Hubway is resuming operations after shutting down in late November for the winter.

At the end of its 2012 season, Hubway had 105 bike stations in the four municipalities where it operated, including 72 in Boston, said Nicole Freedman, director of Boston Bikes, the City of Boston entity involved with Hubway.

The City of Boston owns the Hubway stations in Boston and many of the bikes. The costs of the operation are subsidized by sponsorship, grants, and advertising fees as well as membership dues from users. Hubway ended last year with about 7,000 members. In Boston, the title sponsor of the program is New Balance, the local athletic footwear and apparel company. As a result of those revenues, no Boston taxpayer dollars are used to fund New Balance Hubway operations, Freedman said.

The City of Boston pays an Oregon company called Alta Bicycle Share to manage and maintain its New Balance Hubway bikes and stations, she said.