MYSTIC, Conn. - When Tim Evers heard about plans in Paris last year to offer thousands of low-cost rental bikes at stations across the city, he thought, "Jeepers, why doesn't Mystic do something like this?"
Dozens of European and US cities are in stages of creating such systems that allow people to borrow a bike in the same way they would borrow a library book.
As a place that suffers from traffic congestion and a shortage of parking in the summer, Mystic could be a prime area to encourage the trading of cars for bikes, Evers said.
The basic idea is to set up stations at local inns, marinas, and possibly the Mystic Depot Welcome Center.
Visitors and residents could put down a deposit, which would be refundable upon return of the bike.
Participants would also receive helmets and bike locks for the ride.
It is meant to be a free service, with used or new bikes donated to the organization. It would run from May 1 to Nov. 1.
Evers has gotten enough support to start a nonprofit group called Mystic Community Bikes to start Mystic's bike share program.
"People have so much fun riding bikes, and it's healthier than riding in the car," said Evers, who has run pedicab tours of Mystic for the Mystic River Historical Society for the past three summers.
It would also reduce energy consumption, noise, and air pollution, he said.
It would be lower-tech than what is offered in major cities, where riders can swipe metro cards to access the bicycles, said Tricia Cunningham, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, who is a group member.
"We'd love to get there someday," she said. "We're starting off small here in Mystic."
The group will also work to make Mystic more bike-friendly by encouraging area towns to plan for such transportation and to "make it easier and more logical to bike to local destinations by creating and connecting bike lanes, trails, and sidewalks."
The big question the group must tackle is safety on the roads, Evers said. The main road to Mystic, Route 27, could prove difficult to ride along as it is heavily traveled, he said.
Side streets, such as River Road, are better, but are known mostly to locals, he said.
Evers's pedicab takes up more room than a bicycle, but "drivers are very courteous," he said.
Groton Town Manager Mark R. Oefinger, who sits on the town's Traffic Authority, said it was "a great idea," but noted the area's bikeway network is not complete.