Downtown Concierge

Option for 2013: BikeShare rides


In the Media


The Columbus Dispatch

City will offer about 30 two-wheel rental sites

Many restaurants, shops and attractions sit just out of reach for Downtown workers and residents: too far to walk, but not far enough to make driving and parking worth it.

BikeShare is the answer, said Alan McKnight, director of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. The city council approved a nearly $2.3 million contract with Alta Bicycle Share on Monday.

With the swipe of a credit card, users who are at least 18 years old will be able to rent a three-speed bicycle starting in May. Visitors can tour the city and locals can ride to lunch across town, and then drop off the bike at another spot.

“I think as Columbus has looked at making the city a very bike-friendly town, as we’ve looked at green initiatives, it’s one that fits into all of those models,” McKnight said.

The initial cost covers purchasing bicycles, setting up about 30 solar-powered pick-up and drop-off kiosks and first-year operating costs. The city will own the bikes and the kiosks, but all day-to-day responsibilities will fall to Alta, which will manage the system, develop a marketing plan, find sponsorships, maintain the 300 bikes and redistribute them among the kiosks.

After the first year, McKnight said the system should be self-sustaining and the city and Alta will split the revenue.

A daily pass will cost about $5. That will include the first 30 minutes of each ride that day, with charges added for longer rides. By checking in the bike every half hour, riders could avoid the additional charges. Costs are not yet determined, but he said the yearly membership will be about $65. With that, a rider would be allowed to ride 30 minutes at a time for a year, but would pay more for longer rides.

BikeShare fills a gap in the city’s overall biking infrastructure, said Jeanie Martin, a member of the Consider Biking board of directors.

With a great trail system and accessibility on the roads, this is the next step, she said. “It starts to become more and more of an inviting environment to be riding in.”

Columbus is the first city in Ohio to offer a bike-renting program, and Martin said she hopes it becomes a catalyst for other cities to consider it. She already has heard talk in Cincinnati and Cleveland.

The system monitors when each bike is unlocked for a user, and when it is returned and locked back into a station. Theft hasn’t been a problem for other bike-share programs, McKnight said.

“If you swipe, we know,” McKnight said. “If it’s not returned, we know who has it.”

Although the city encourages the use of helmets, they are not part of the system right now. Kiosks will have maps and information about safe riding.

Its density, grid pattern setup and flat, smooth streets make Columbus an ideal city for a bike-share program, said Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of Capital Crossroads and Discovery special-improvement districts.

“It will draw employers Downtown. It will draw residents Downtown because it offers a lifestyle option that is unusual for central Ohio,” Ricksecker said.

Lydia Coutré is a Kent State University journalism major and a fellow in Ohio University’s Statehouse News Bureau.