Raleigh Report

Plans for Raleigh’s bike-share program take shape

Electric bikes in use during the Bike Share Baltimore Launch.
Electric bikes in use during the Bike Share Baltimore Launch. Mark Dennis/Bewegen Technologies Inc.

Even those who aren’t totally comfortable pedaling a bicycle through downtown Raleigh will be able to take part in the new bike-share program.

The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday agreed to begin contract negotiations with Saint-Georges-based Bewegen and New Jersey-based Corps Logistics for a bike-sharing initiative set to launch next spring.

Raleigh plans to deploy 300 bikes at 30 stations throughout the city for people to rent on a short-term basis – maybe for a quick trip across downtown or a leisurely ride on the greenway system. The goal is to encourage healthy lifestyles and make Raleigh more appealing to tourists and professionals who desire an urban lifestyle.

Bewegen provides equipment and programming direction, while Corps Logistics, a veteran-owned company that hires formerly homeless vets, handles operations and maintenance.

The city received seven offers from companies hoping to start the program, and staff reviewed the proposals with consultants from N.C. State University and the city of Durham.

Bewegen was chosen in part because of its plan to include 100 “e-bikes” bicycles in Raleigh’s fleet. The electrically assisted bicycles can’t power themselves, but they make peddling easier, said Trung Vo, Raleigh’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager.

“The e-assist option was really intriguing to us because it really opens up bike-share to nontraditional riders, riders that maybe feel like they’re not fit enough, or who maybe don’t want to deal with Raleigh’s hills,” Vo said. “It really opens up the bike-share system to more of our community.”

Bewegen’s bikes have an electric motor attached to the bottom bracket, a basket on the handle bars, GPS trackers and a fender on the back wheel that offers space for advertising. The company claims its bikes have the lowest center of gravity on the market, making them easy to ride.

Raleigh “is becoming a very hip city. The fit in culture really makes a lot of sense.

Braunyno Ayotte, director of business development for Bewegen

The company lists as clients Birmingham, Ala.; Richmond, Va.; Baltimore; one city in Germany and four cities in Portugal.

Raleigh’s growth and population of young adults make the city appealing to Bewegen, said Braunyno Ayotte, the company’s director of business development.

Raleigh “is becoming a very hip city,” Ayotte said. “The fit in culture really makes a lot of sense.”

The program will cost $1.65 million to launch, which will be covered by a combination of city funds and grants from the federal and county governments.

It’s expected to cost $653,000 to operate each year, but city leaders think they can recoup all but $188,000 through rental fares and sponsorships. The city received verbal three-year commitments from tech company Citrix for $150,000 a year, UNC Rex Healthcare for $50,000 a year and Blue Cross Blue Shield for $50,000 a year.

Bewegen offered two strategies for partnering with the city. Raleigh could take full responsibility for operating the bikes and generating ad revenue, which it would keep. Or Bewegen could control the bikes and advertising efforts so long as Raleigh lets the company keep 20 percent of the ad revenue.

Students and low-income residents would get special deals on bike rentals.

The company wouldn’t be in charge of rental rates in either scenario.

Under the city’s tentative plans, the first half-hour of every bike rental would be free. It would cost $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 special deals to students and low-income residents. Students would pay $2 for each additional half-hour and $50 for a 12-month pass. Residents who make less than the area’s median income – about $26,500 for one person or $37,900 for a household of four – would pay $5 for 30-day rentals.

City Council members told staff to explore both options. Bewegen contracts with Effix, a partner of the Montreal Canadiens professional hockey team that specializes in securing sponsors for “high-profile clients.”

“If they have a sponsorship-fundraising arm that does this all the time, they’re probably going to be more successful with it than we are,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.

Council members Kay Crowder and Bonner Gaylord said the city should retain the right to refuse some sponsors and to audit the program’s books.

“Something like a strip club absolutely would be inappropriate,” Gaylord said. “Things like alcohol ads or political messages would require some discussion.”

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht