City residents who are concerned about a lack of bike racks could soon get a chance to put their money where their mouth is.
The Raleigh City Council is working on a plan to allow “crowdfunding” efforts to raise money for bike racks, bus shelters, public art and other urban amenities.
The idea is similar to the Kickstarter fundraising website but would finance projects typically reserved for city government.
Reid Serozi and his fellow “civic geeks” at the Raleigh Code for America Brigade came up with the proposal. Serozi was interested in getting bike racks installed along North Person Street in his neighborhood.
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“Everybody’s locking up their bikes against trees and stop signs,” he explained. “The local businesses would like the bike parking opportunities.”
Raleigh likely won’t have tax dollars available for the project anytime soon, so Serozi thinks the city should use its SeeClickFix troubleshooting website to seek donations. With the technology in place, donors wouldn’t be limited to bike racks.
“The idea with this whole crowdfunding idea is that it could be anything,” he said.
But before generous cyclists can offer up their credit cards, Raleigh leaders have to work out the details. The biggest concern is equity: Crowdfunded amenities could be concentrated in wealthier neighborhoods, creating a city of haves and have-nots.
“The equity piece is the piece that bothers me the most,” Councilman John Odom said during a committee meeting Tuesday.
Finding a fair solution
Assistant City Manager Dan Howe suggested bundling projects together – a fundraiser for 30 bike racks spread throughout the city, for example.
“That eliminates many of the equity issues where neighborhoods that are rich get stuff and neighborhoods that are low-income don’t,” he said.
But Serozi isn’t sure that approach would work. Downtown residents might see 30 racks as an unattainable goal, especially if many ended up in North Raleigh. Serozi favors what he calls a “money in the cookie jar” idea where donors must raise a bit more than the amenity costs.
The extra money raised would go into a fund for similar projects in lower-income neighborhoods. Some of it would cover maintenance.
Donors would also be limited in what they could fund to keep upkeep at a minimum. For example, they would have to stick to the city’s standard bike rack design.
Howe said he’ll work through those details in the coming weeks, presenting the program to the full city council in August. “With those kinds of strategies, we can probably make something like this work,” he said.