Wake County money will help pay for a bike-sharing program that Raleigh is launching.
Raleigh late next year plans to place about 300 bicycles for rent at 30 stations throughout downtown, including the campuses of N.C. State and Shaw University. After using a $1.6 million federal grant, the city is left with a one-time payment of about $425,000 to launch the program.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday agreed to give Raleigh $200,000 to help fund BikeShare, saying it improves mobility and encourages active lifestyles.
Commissioner Sig Hutchinson said the program will provide an affordable transportation alternative for low-income residents who need to move throughout downtown.
“This can provide that last mile of connectivity,” Hutchinson said.
Raleigh hopes to launch the program by the end of next year, according to Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation manager. The city is reviewing different bike-sharing models across the country before it issues a formal proposal to find an operator, which Lamb said it plans to do soon.
A handful of businesses, including Citrix and Rex Healthcare, have expressed interest in funding or sponsoring the program. The city isn’t likely to attract sponsors until it picks a rental vendor and determines the amount of advertising space available, Lamb said.
Hutchinson lobbied the Raleigh City Council to adopt the program when it was considering the move in March.
Earlier this month, commissioners declined to fund Raleigh’s program using hotel tax revenues. Commissioners and staff expected seven other projects, such as resurfacing the field at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, to stimulate the economy more than the bike-rental program.
The funding awarded to BikeShare on Monday is coming from the county’s recent sale of land near the interchange of Peace Street and Capital Boulevard as part of the state DOT’s plan to redo the Capital Boulevard bridge. So the county is reinvesting in Raleigh, Hutchinson said.
Commissioner Betty Lou Ward agreed, saying that working with Wake’s municipalities is “even more important” than the project itself.
BikeShare users will be able to ride the bikes for free as long as they return them to any of the stations within 30 minutes.
Raleigh plans to charge $4 for each additional half-hour, $8 for 24 hours or a flat $80 fee for unlimited use for 12 months. The city plans to offer reduced rates to students: $2 for each additional half-hour and $50 for a 12-month pass.
Representatives of local organizations such as Oaks and Spokes, WakeUP Wake County and others spoke at the meeting in favor of the funding.
“Biking gets people moving. In a study of college students, 30 percent lost weight after they started using BikeShare,” said Sara Merz, director of Advocates for Health in Action, which supports community efforts to increase healthy eating and physical activity in Wake County.
Molly McKinley of Oaks and Spokes said BikeShare is “the icing on the cake of transportation options in the area.”