City asks: Should Raleigh start a bike share?

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMarch 18, 2014 

BCYCLE

Andy Mock takes a bike for a ride from the Charlotte B-cycle station at Freedom Park last year. Raleigh officials are studying the Charlotte program as they consider a similar program here.

MORGAN MCCLOY — mmccloy@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Bicyclists in Raleigh could soon be renting bikes for short trips around town with the swipe of a card.

City officials want feedback on a proposed bike share program as they launch a $86,500 study to determine whether the idea would work in Raleigh. They’re asking cyclists to take a short survey and suggest possible rack locations at bikeraleigh.org/bikeshare.

Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager, said the study will provide answers the city council needs to make a decision on the program. “What does our market look like relative to other communities that have implemented bike share programs?” Lamb said. “What kinds of operational costs could we expect from this? Where are the points people want to ride to and from?”

So far, dozens of people have responded to the latter question. The majority of the suggested locations are clustered around downtown Raleigh and entrances to city greenways.

Most of Charlotte’s 20-plus bike sharing locations are centered around downtown. Since the Charlotte B-cycle program launched nearly two years ago, the amenity has gone far beyond its expectations with more than 11,000 one-day riders in the first year alone.

Charlotte B-cycle users pay a membership fee of $8 per day or $65 per year and can check out one of the 200 bikes for no additional fee if they return it within 30 minutes. Ride for longer, and the cost is $4 per 30 minutes.

“People are seeing the B-Cycle kind of like a taxi – you use it only when you need it, park it, then get another one,” Ken Tippette of the Charlotte Department of Transportation said last year. “It’s there when you need it.”

Charlotte’s downtown development agency manages the program, which is supported by corporate contributions. The program involved $850,000 in start-up costs and annual operational costs between $300,000 and $400,000.

In Raleigh, Lamb said the initial study won’t recommend a particular service provider or funding model. “This part of it is really meant to be a technical assessment,” he said.

Once the report is sent to the Raleigh City Council in about six months, they’ll decide how bike share might work here – if they choose to move forward. “The financial model will be a key decision,” Lamb said.

While Charlotte’s bike share program has been hailed as a success, the idea has struggled in other places. The company that runs the service in London and New York filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, and some cities have seen their programs struggle to break even.

Cyclists can hear more about the bike share possibilities in Raleigh during a Bike Raleigh forum at 6 p.m. April 10 in Cobblestone Hall at downtown’s City Market.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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