Chapel Hill News

Carrboro to explore bike sharing

By late next year, Carrboro residents may be able to rent a bike for a day, much like renting a car for a weekend drive.

This month, the town of Carrboro will ask for proposals on a parking management plan that will include a recommendation for a possible bicycle-sharing program.

Bike-sharing programs, which are basically very short-term rental arrangements, date back to the 1960s but they have become more popular recently, in part due to mobile payment technology. New York City’s Citibike program lets residents there rent a bike for $10 a day, $25 for a week or $149 for unlimited use for a year.

The programs provide sponsors with advertising and brand awareness while helping to take cars off downtown streets. The program has been so popular in New York that managing its growth has been a difficult challenge.

The Board of Aldermen heard an update recently on staff efforts to get the project done, despite the available funds being reduced from $150,000 to $75,000 due to a policy change made by a regional planning committee.

The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization Board is a policy body designated by the governor that coordinates and makes decisions on transportation planning issues.

It’s unclear if the town will have the funding to start a bike-program, but the aldermen wants to hear how such a program might work for Carrboro, which was named a Silver Level 2015 Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

For some tasks in the project that the funding cannot cover, the town plans to work with the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning to get some assistance.

The project should take over a year, said Bergen Watterson, transportation planner for the town.

Alderwoman Jacquie Gist asked staff to look at communities like Carrboro as the town explores a program.

“We’re not interested in what Copenhagen or San Francisco is doing,” she said. “We’re not Sim City.”

Although there has been much emphasis on the downtown area’s parking demand, the study and recommendations are expected to evaluate the whole town.

The consultant will also look at some of the issues facing pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities to evaluate accessibility and safety.

The public will be involved in the process, beginning with a “kickoff” forum that will allow individual citizens, business owners and other interested parties to hear presentations about the project and identify challenges related to parking in Carrboro.

The proposed time frame for the project featured a kickoff event for July, but the aldermen decided that waiting until September would be best.

“[July] is when the fewest people are here,” Gist said. “It’s real important for that to happen when the whole community is present. We’ve done data collection things done before when the university is out and it’s totally … wrong,” she said.

Gist was also concerned about non-residents having excessive influence in the process. “I think it’s great to get input from people who come here, but I also have seen charrettes that have been taken over by people who don’t live here,” she said. “The people who do live here and pay the taxes here and have businesses here can be overwhelmed.”

Also important, said Alderman Damon Seils, is making sure to measure traffic and parking patterns across the calendar, including variations and patterns that only occur at certain times.

Watterson expects to return to the Aldermen at the June 16 meeting to have the board select the consultant from among the top three candidates submitting proposals.