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By Robert Vitale | 21 Mar, 2012
Downtown workers, conference-goers and visitors might have a new option for getting around.
Columbus officials are considering placing bicycles for rent at locations Downtown, in surrounding districts and possibly around Ohio State University.
With a credit-card swipe and an hourly, daily or yearly charge, users could grab a bike at one spot and drop it off at another. (Bring your own helmet, though.)
Bike-share programs already are in place in Chicago, Washington, Denver and other cities and are coming soon to New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore.
Columbus Recreation and Parks Director Alan McKnight said the city is looking to Minneapolis as a model. There, it costs $6 a day or $65 a year to rent one of 1,200 bikes at any of 116 stations.
“Columbus has done a lot to promote bicycle riding,” McKnight said. “It’s an exciting concept.”
He said his department expects to seek proposals from businesses or nonprofit groups interested in running a bike-share service in the city.
The city would pay much of the cost to get a program running, McKnight said. The capital-improvements plan proposed on Monday by Mayor Michael B. Coleman includes $250,000, but McNight said the city investment likely would top $1 million if the plan moves forward.
A service could be in place sometime in 2013, McKnight said. Rental locations and fees have yet to be decided.
In Minneapolis, more than 100,000 people rented bikes during Nice Ride Minnesota’s first year of operation in 2010. There were 700 bikes in 51 locations that first season.
It’s expanding in Minneapolis and to nearby St. Paul this spring, said spokeswoman Karen Fullerton.
Bikes are easily identifiable with lime-green frames, Nice Ride logos and emblems from corporate sponsor Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
McKnight said he envisions Columbus users renting bikes to get to and from meetings at Downtown office buildings, to grab lunch in the Short North or “because I’ve had a frustrating day and I want to get out and ride for a half-hour.”
The program also would be advertised to hotel guests and conference attendees, he said, and businesses and building owners could foot the bill to add rental racks outside their doors.
Chicago is expanding its program this year from a test project to a full-scale service with 3,000 bikes in 300 stations.
The city expects to spend $21 million on start-up costs, according to the Chicago Tribune, but city officials say they expect users and sponsors to make it self-sustaining.
All but $3 million is coming from federal grants designed to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.