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Columbus BikeShare System to Launch in 2013

Walker Evans Walker Evans Columbus BikeShare System to Launch in 2013
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Next summer, Columbus will see the launch of its first bike share network with over 300 bikes parked at 30 locations in Downtown and nearby neighborhoods. Users of the system will be able to visit any of the stations, borrow a bike to ride and return it to any of the stations.

“BikeShare is a low-cost, 24-hour transit system,” said Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “We’ve taken big steps toward making Columbus one of the best biking cities in the nation, and I’m excited to add bike sharing to the mix.”

Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share has been selected to bring the system to Columbus in June 2013. The system will utilize an automated swipe card system that will feature single-day uses, three-day passes and yearly memberships. The cards can be purchased at stations or online.

“This program is a fabulous addition for Downtown, and I have no doubt we will see a significant increase in bicycle traffic,” said Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of the Capital Crossroads and the Discovery Special Improvement Districts. “Columbus BikeShare will be a big amenity not only for visitors to Columbus, but for Downtown employees and residents. ”

The 300 bikes that will be a part of the system are three-speed models designed for users over the age of 18. Bikes feature safety lights, a basket for hauling goods, and components to prevent theft. A maintenance team will repair broken bikes and redistribute them to stations throughout the city.

Alta Bicycle Share operates similar systems in Boston, Washington DC and Melbourne, with new systems also rolling out this coming spring in New York City and Portland.

Pricing structures have not yet been announced in Columbus, but the existing systems in Boston and DC charge $5-$7 per day, $12-$15 for a three-day pass, or $75-$85 for annual memberships. Once a pass has been purchased, the costs are then broken down based on time ridden. Any trip under 30 minutes from station to station is free, followed by charges broken down by half-hourly increments.

Columbus City Council is expected to approve legislation on Monday authorizing a one time expenditure of $2.2 million to purchase the bikes, stations and other equipment that will be operated by Alta.

Station locations will be decided this fall through resident and business input, while initial station locations will be centered near Downtown area attractions and employment centers. A map of proposed approximate locations can be found below.

To read more about the concept of bike share systems, click here: Big Ideas: Trending Cycles.

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  • Wootie

    Fantastic! I was in Minneapolis/St. Paul for a few days last month and fell in love with their bike share system – I had no idea we were doing one too! This is great news.

  • MichaelC

    Terrific news!

  • stephentszuter

    Do you lock it up on your own when you arrive at your non-terminal destination?

    For example, I would like to jump over to the library… Get bike, arrive at library, lock bike in front with my own lock, have library time, get bike, return to terminal…?

    I assume that’s how it works…?

    Nonetheless, awesome news!

  • stephentszuter

    Just found out there is a proposed stop at the library.

    Also, my French coworker said that it’s best to take the bikes from station to station, because if someone steals it, and the account is tied to your credit card, they will auto-withdrawal $700 for not returning the bike (at least in Montreal/Paris (he used them in both locations))…

    So if that’s the case here, I will most likely be taking the bikes from station to station… Also makes them available to others which I am doing whatever I’m doing.

  • billbix

    I was thinking this would be good for office workers at lunch, but taking them station to station might nor be that convenient. Do they have some kind of lock that you can use for something like a lunch break?

  • Stephen, you really don’t want to lock it in a non docking station if possible. The membership allows you to ride it 30 minutes without charge, but above 30 min there is a charge which gets higher each 1/2 hour it is out. So essentially unless you are just going in and out, you’d be paying for non-riding time. However I have heard of bike shares used at Red Rocks in Colorado where people going to concerts did lock up and pay the overage to be sure a bike was available. It was still less than parking and got them out without the traffic jam. It makes sense at an event like that, but that’s kind of an exception.

  • Billbix – hopefully people would choose a lunch place near a docking station. There is a mobile app to help people locate a docking station with bikes available and on the flip side, if the docking station is full, it helps locate a station with empty bays. I don’t have all the details, but I think the Alta bikes come with a ulock.

  • mrsgeedeck

    Even for a quick lunch its a great map (that will hopefully be extended in the future). I’d totally grab a bike at CSCC and bike to Gay St. for lunch.

  • Molly

    This is so fantastic!

  • Divide 2.2 million by 300 bikes, and you end up paying $7000 per shitty cruiser bike. No offense, but you cant ride the stations. It’s like blaming the high cost of cars on the gas stations. Station based bike shares have such a huge initial capital investment that they only work in dense urban environments with a high temporary transportation demand. Columbus is not one of those cities. New York, Miami, and DC are, and these projects even stumbled there. We had a low cost bike share program in the short north then NEVER got used. I would be for a program like this that only cost about 400$ to outfit a bike of your choice http://www.facebook.com/viacycle

  • stephentszuter

    eh, though… there are population shifts happening. albeit slowly…

    there will soon be another 600 residents living downtown.

    regardless, i’ll be one person that will use it for sure.

  • jpizzow

    You can’t really base the project on per bike basis. A huge chunk of that money goes towards the infrastructure, which is a one time cost. That’s like say two trains on a one billion dollar light rail system costs $500 million a piece.

    My only concern is the 30 minutes of free time alotted. I would rather see an hour. There is not much one can do in less than 30 minutes, not even grab a bite to eat at most places.

    It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I’m not sure Columbus has gotten that critical mass of bike riders yet but it is slowly getting there. Amenities like bike sharing will certainly help. Although, I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying, Columbus won’t have that mass of bike riders until we get dedicated bike lanes in our urban core. I’m speaking of lanes on roads, not our bike paths.

  • billbix

    An hour seems much better, but I assume they are thinking a half hour for some revenue purposes.

  • jpizzow

    ^^That’s exactly what their thinking.

  • Your not supposed to hold on to this bike while you eat lunch. You use the bike to get from point a to point b, lock the bike at a new docking station, do you activity, then pick another one up to go back from point b to a. This actually works really well in DC.

  • Why cant we use a bike share system that eliminates the docks and only costs $800 per bike tops? http://www.facebook.com/viacycle does this. The bike dock system Columbus is trying to implement is overpriced at $7000 and not flexible enough for our cities needs!

  • heresthecasey

    Good idea, but it will be a shame if this doesn’t include areas like osu, bexley/main st, and clintonville/worthington.

    A lot of those proposed station locations downtown are less than a five minute walk from each other. I doubt downtown has that level of spontaneous bike share traffic or demand to be able to support them all. (Or at least without connections available to the aforementioned areas).

  • mrpoppinzs

    My initial reaction was that this is a no brainer for the SN, but I think downtown is a better testing ground. Aside from rush hour, downtown is fairly tame and most streets are pretty bikeable. I think that the SN will come in time but there is a lot more threat from sidewalk cycling, drunk bar biking, and night traffic on High St than in the downtown.

    Is there an optional helmet available at the stations?

  • @heresthecasey – Station locations being a five minute walk away from each other doesn’t really matter. It’s about placing stations in front of destinations. An urban bus line often stops every two or three blocks (less than a five minute walk from stop to stop) but the intention isn’t to provide bus service for someone riding only two blocks at time.

    No one (hopefully) is going to rent and ride a bike two blocks from the Statehouse to Columbus Commons. But the Statehouse and Columbus Commons individually would be ideal places to consider bike rental station locations as they’re high traffic destinations that people could ride from/to from other areas.

  • @GoBikeColumbus.com – The low cost bike share system you’re referring to was only one station (in front of Tigertree in the Short North) and only 10 bikes. It was barely promoted and just a side project of a few local small business owners who I don’t think ended up spending any time or money on it. I don’t think it’s really an adequate comparison at all to what is being proposed here…

  • @GoBikeColumbus.com – I agree with you that the VIA Cycle project sounds cool and a more cost-effective solution, but it also sounds like it’s still a pilot project only being tested out in a very limited capacity, and not even a fully funded company (backed by Y Combinator, it’s essentially a bootstrapped startup). While there’s something to be said for leading the way with innovation, it also doesn’t hurt to work with a company that has already been operating in other cities to ensure you’re either not going to run into unforeseen problems, or end up shutting down the system if the company never really gets off the ground out of “pilot project” mode. This is doubly true when it comes to allocating taxpayer dollars.

  • heresthecasey

    @Walker, I get that no one would ideally be renting to ride for just two blocks. What I was thinking more along the lines of is that if our initial capital investment only allows for a certain limited number of stations, it would be more productive to place them somewhat less frequently downtown, and instead open up new destinations people will actually want to bike between.

    For example, no one is riding between the Statehouse and Columbus Commons, but someone could easily walk half a block from one to the other in order to rent a bike. If those two stations were consolidated to one on High, say between State and Town, the extra one could be moved somewhere else, like maybe High and 15th at the Wexner Center.

    I’m skeptical that there will be that much traffic just wanting to travel from one side of downtown to the other. But, if people can go from downtown to Bexley, or to Osu, Grandview, Clintonville, or up the bike path to Old Worthington I think it would be a much more successful implementation.

    If the entire system is contained within an area that could be easily covered on foot, I don’t think it would be living up to its true potential.

  • I think we’re both in agreement that having the best locations for the stations will help to ensure the success of the system. While Commons/Statehouse may not be the best example (I should have said Broad and High instead of Statehouse) I think it still holds true that strategic placement in high-traffic locations can trump proximity. Part of the benefit of riding a bike is being able to park it extremely close to your destination. If you have to walk five minutes to get to the station, some people won’t bother to use it.

    “I’m skeptical that there will be that much traffic just wanting to travel from one side of downtown to the other.”

    When you factor in workers, residents, students and visitors to all of the institutions throughout Downtown, it’s a fairly bustling place. And I think it’s sometimes easy to take for granted just how large Downtown actually is. Fulton to Goodale on foot is a 1.4 mile 30 minute walk. That’s not necessarily “easily covered on foot” by everyone’s standards. To put it in perspective, Goodale to 5th (the whole length of the Short North) is only 0.9 miles. And while the Short North has many small retail and restaurant destinations along the way, it doesn’t have the workforce or large institutions like the CMA or Library or CSCC or Grant Hospital or the County Courthouse, each with thousands of people coming and going daily.

    I’m willing to bet there’s plenty of potential ridership to tap into Downtown, as long as the system is properly planned. But I do agree that strategically placed locations near OSU or Grandview or Bexley could also work well.

    Will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

  • stephentszuter

    As a downtown resident with a proposed station right next to my apartment building, and proposed stations near a lot of the destinations that I frequent, I see myself using this very often…

    I could take it to the soon-to-be-opened Hills Market, the library, the Mile, my dentist/Arena DIstrict… there are tons of places I would be able to get to within half an hour.

    From what I’ve heard from people that have lived in cities with bike shares like this, they are pretty successful and very convenient.

    omg never mind… they’re not putting one in OTE…. all the hipsters are going to take the bikes at my station…

  • leftovers

    ^ I can definitely see the advantages when you don’t want to haul a bike around and find yourself visiting downtown (for work or pleasure). That said, if I lived in these areas I would put the $85 (plus time based surcharges) into a bike of my own (which could be recouped on selling it if I moved). I bought a used Trek for $100 and it has paid for itself many times over.

    Bikes are great, simple to maintain, inexpensive forms of transportation.

  • bucki12

    I keep a cheap beater bike locked up downtown for getting around at lunch. I guess this bike share is a public extension of that line of thinking. I have to admit though, I like parking right next to where I am going and not having to worry about extra fees. I have even biked it home on occasions when Cota’s schedule didn’t work with mine.

  • romanh

    I’m absolutely thrilled about this. In Madison, WI the prices started at about the same level for annual membership, but have been consistently dropping. Last time I heard, it’s below $30 a year.

  • @stephentszuter – “omg never mind… they’re not putting one in OTE…. all the hipsters are going to take the bikes at my station…”

    The map is preliminary. Actual locations will be decided at public input meetings. It’s in the article.

  • Big_Ford_Country84

    Interesting program will Columbus be Accelerating and expanding the bike trail/lane program? We have some nice North south routes (which I will use if you get the Williams rd link done), but we really need some dedicated east west routes. Along these route we need more signage too reminding drivers to share the road.
    Since last spring I have ridden my bike, electric bike and motorcycle more often to save gas. The Cota bike racks are wonderful and I have a friend who uses this to commute to work. The install of bike racks downtown are a great idea too. The MORPC map is nice too. I follow the bike rules yet sometimes I still am forced to use a sidewalk. All in all I enjoy biking Columbus.
    Auto and truck drivers still have a own the road attitude tword bikers and pedestrians. Unfortunately law enforcement seems to turn a blind eye to this unless a fatality is involved. I tried using my electric bike to ride to work all summer, only to be harassed by an Ohio State highway patrolman (Lockbourne and Obetz 45 mph is too fast for this area). I was told I was a menace to traffic cause I was too slow. This area could use bike lanes but I think is Franklin county/ Hamilton twsp.

  • JimSweeney

    Thrilled to see 2 locations in Fton!!

  • Cities with systems of comparable size: Madison, Chatanooga, Baltimore, Broward County (Ft Lauderdale)

    Full list is at:

  • In terms of East-West Connectors, we actually have two and one more is coming. There is currently a signed route from Olentangy Trail at Broadmeadows to the Alum Creek Trail at Cooper Rd Park. The second East-West link is the 670 Trail, although it has some closures with the 70/71 project. The new connector is Hudson-Mock which will connect the Olentangy Trail and Alum Creek Trail via Hudson and Mock Rds. It should be a spring 2013 installation see pdf below.

    OLAC North (pdf): http://publicservice.columbus.gov/uploadedFiles/Public_Service/DOMO/Bikeway_Program/OlentangyAlumCreek.pdf

    670 Trail (site seems to be down now though)

    Hudson-Mock Connector (pdf)

    A good way to stay up to date on what Bicycle Treatments are being installed is to attend the monthly Columbus Bicycle Subcommittee meetings.

  • Check out Socialbicycles.com . The bike share system would cost about $1000 per bike instead of $7000 (like the one proposed in Columbus) because it doesn’t use the annoying docking system!

    Total initial investment of $300,000 instead of 2.2mil. imagine what we could actually do for cycling in the city with the other $1.9 million!!!

  • SocialBicycles.com appears to be another startup still in the testing phase. The low cost sounds great, but having a track record of proven success is often a more important factor when deciding which type of system to spend public dollars on.

  • You say this as if the proposed bike share system has a good financial track record in the US…. I understand you want a bike share REALLY badly, so do I. But a overpriced $7000 product is not the way to go. AND… if you really doubt the utility of a product that is 1/7 of the cost, couldnt we run a 15 bike pilot for say $15,000 (roughly the cost of two of the proposed bikes) and see if we can save the city $1.9 million?!?!?!

  • jilldpa

    I just relocated to Columbus from Manhattan and am continually impressed by the progressive steps the city is taking to help the environment and create a high level of livability. It looks like there are some naysayers to this program (in fairness, maybe the program works, maybe it doesn’t), but I feel fortunate to live in a city where there’s a willingness to try new initiatives like this.

  • Polis

    Walker, I have a few questions about this program, I’m not sure you know the answers but I’ll post anyway:

    1. What is annual operating cost of the program?
    2. Do you know if the vendor contract is a one time payment by the vendor, which allows them to collect for ‘x’ number of years or is it a yearly agreement?
    3. I see the total cost above, but are there any federal or state dollars being thrown into the pot? Is it all local funding? Any public-private partnerships with the vendor?

    Just curious as to how this program is being funded. I know many alt-transportation projects use federal dollars, which would otherwise be diverted to somewhere else if not used here.

  • No idea on any of those. Would probably be best to direct those questions to John Ivanic at City Hall.

  • mikeonabike

    will stations be determined by the city, Alta or both? how/where can residents provide feedback on the proposed locations?

  • I assume there will be some sort of public meeting this fall to gather input on locations. We’ll post that here if that turns out to be the route for input: http://www.columbusunderground.com/forums/forum/civic-meetings

  • bferriot

    Keep in mind, there may be a provision in the initial contract to be able to move the station locations as needed throughout a specified term. That way, if a station doesn’t work out at site X, it could potentially be moved to site Y or Z, and so on.

  • By visiting the Department of Recreation and Parks website at http://parks.columbus.gov/ColumbusBikeShareProgram.aspx users can suggest up to five locations where they believe bike share kiosks would be most successful. Suggested locations are submitted by placing pins on an electronic map within the city’s Downtown core under consideration for the project. Pins placed outside of the proposed project area will be filed and used to inform a possible system expansion in the future.


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