Bike share study finds Raleigh can support initiative

07/07/2014 4:10 PM

07/07/2014 4:11 PM

City leaders are moving forward with a bike share program after a study found that Raleigh has the population density and tourist market to support the initiative.

The Raleigh City Council heard the results of an $86,500 feasibility study last week. The study’s findings were favorable after polling residents and comparing Raleigh to cities like Charlotte that already have bike share.

“More than a transportation system, this is a way of branding the city as a place for healthy lifestyles,” City Councilman Russ Stephenson said.

To install 30 bike sharing stations and 300 bikes across Raleigh, the study estimates an initial cost of $1.5 million and monthly operating costs ranging from $25,500 to $61,200.

Those numbers would likely be offset by a corporate sponsorship and membership fees from riders. Councilman Eugene Weeks said the city should reach out to local tech firms like Red Hat where many employees are cyclists.

The study polled residents for suggested station locations, with 155 sites recommended. It found the highest potential for bike sharing success inside the Beltline – with one exception. “The art museum was the most popular station location – that’s because it’s one of our best bicycling destinations,” said Jennifer Baldwin, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

Baldwin, Stephenson and other city officials recently visited Charlotte to check out the Queen City’s successful “B-Cycle” program. But Baldwin said Raleigh won’t be able to replicate an identical model.

“No city money was involved in their launch,” which was fast-tracked ahead of the Democratic National Convention, she said. “We’re not going to be that lucky to be in the spot that they were.”

Nationally, bike-sharing initiatives use one of three funding models. One is for local government to own and operate the entire system. Some cities have programs that are privately owned and operated. But most, Baldwin said, are owned by local government but operated by a private contractor.

“This is going to be one of the big questions marks we’ll have” in Raleigh, she said.

The only concern council members voiced last week was whether bikes might get stolen. But a program here would likely require cyclists to swipe a credit card before checking out a bike. If the bike isn’t returned to another docking station, the renter will pay the replacement cost.

“Charlotte hasn’t lost a single bike since they launched,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said. “You don’t want your credit card charged.”

With the feasbility study complete, Raleigh now starts an implementation study to determine exactly how the program would work here.

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