Columbus is exploring ways to implement a bike-sharing program that could appeal to residents or visitors — traveling to work, touring the city or exercising.

The program would allow users to rent bicycles from kiosks at different points in the city and return them to any kiosk along the route.

Columbus Park Foundation began discussing the possibility of creating a program last fall, when a bike-sharing committee was formed. Now the foundation has tapped an Indianapolis leader in bike-share implementation in hopes of starting a program locally.

Kären Haley, executive director of Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc. and the Indiana Pacer Bike-share program, spoke at the foundation’s annual community meeting Wednesday about the success of Indianapolis’ program.

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A bike-sharing program in Columbus would be one way of offering healthy transportation alternatives by allowing customers to rent and ride along the city’s more than 41 miles of bicycle trails, said April Williams, the foundation’s project and resource development director.

The bike-sharing committee will help determine if a kiosk system would be a good fit for Columbus. Initial feedback from local employers, Columbus Regional Hospital, the Columbus Area Visitors Center and the Columbus Area Arts Council has been positive, Williams said.

“Everybody was on board and at least thought it was worth investigating,” she said.

The foundation is creating a preliminary business plan for running a bike-share program and has been engaging community stakeholders to see who would be interested in supporting one — and to what extent, Williams said.

Bike-share programs usually are funded by membership fees, user fees, sponsorship and grants, Haley said. Programs such as Pacers Bike-share allow for advertising on the stations and bikes.

Williams said private funds could be involved in a Columbus program.

The cost of a bike station depends on the number of bikes, Haley said.

  • A station with about nine bikes costs about $30,000.
  • One with about 17 bikes cost about $40,000.

Columbus Park Foundation is planning two public meetings in March to gauge public interest in starting a local bike-share program and discuss how many bikes and kiosks would be needed, Williams said.

Creating a healthier road

A bike-share program would fit the mission of Columbus Regional Health’s Reach Healthy Communities Initiative. It would promote healthier lifestyles, offer another form of transportation and could spur development along bike trails, said Laura Garrett, the Reach Healthy Communities Initiative lead.

“If you look at things like Indianapolis Cultural Trail and protective bike lanes — if you build it, they will come,” she said.

Garrett studied bike-share programs for her thesis while in graduate school at Indiana University. Communities that ride bikes safely and comfortably with the help of biking infrastructure tend to be happier, she said.

“The whole idea of creating a community built on health, one that’s built for biking, walking, whatever it might be, a bike share only encourages a community that’s very active,” she said.

Tourism boost

The Columbus Area Visitors Center supports creating a bike-share program because it would allow visitors to take bike tours of the city, said Lynn Lucas, the center’s executive director.

Some visitors have asked the center if bike tours are offered. Architectural bike tours used to be offered by the visitors center about a decade ago, and center staff have been discussing offering them again, she said.

A bike-share program would be an amenity that would appeal to young professionals and families, of which the city hopes to attract more, Lucas said.

“We think it’s a good idea,” Lucas said.

Thinking bike-share

The Indiana Pacers Bike-share program launched in April with 26 bike stations and 250 bicycles available at all times. During the program’s first month, 13,017 trips were recorded. By the end of the year, the total eclipsed 90,000, Haley said.

Haley thinks a bike-share program could be successful in Columbus, too.

“There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm and there’s a lot of diverse parties coming together to talk about bike-share,” she said.

The idea of a bike-share program stemmed from findings of the city Bike and Pedestrian Planning Committee, formed in 2008. The committee created a long-term bike and pedestrian plan, which the city adopted in 2010 and has since been updated by the Columbus Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“We’ve always known that from those very first public meetings the demand was there, and they told us in those meetings that they wanted a safe, alternative transportation corridor to get to key destinations throughout the community,” Williams said.

Brad Stroia, a Cummins, Inc. technical adviser who is on the bike-share committee, said he was interested in learning if the public would be interested in bike sharing and approached Williams about looking into the project.

He had learned about bike-sharing conversations in Columbus in the past, but the idea never materialized.

This time, the foundation is doing research on why other programs are successful and how to create a plan for implementing a program in Columbus, Stroia said.

Stroia reached out to Haley and asked her to meet with the committee about all aspect of implementing a local bike-share program.

Williams said the committee has researched several aspects, such as:

  • Vendors who sell the bike-share equipment, such as Wisconsin-based B-Cycle — used for the Indianapolis program.
  • Cities similar in population to Columbus that have successful programs, such as Spartanburg, South Carolina (about 38,000 residents).
  • Possible locations for kiosks, such as the ColumBUS Transit station near Mill Race Center, Mill Race Park and near Cummins’ headquarters.

Stroia said the next important step is making sure that public involvement is part of the process.

Williams said the committee hopes to make a decision on a Columbus bike-sharing program by the summer.

Assistant Managing Editor Kirk Johannesen contributed to this report.

What is bike sharing?

Bike sharing is a public bicycle-sharing system where bicycles are available to individuals to use for a fee.

Memberships and passes, which can be bought directly at a kiosk or online, give you access to any of the specially designed bikes at any station. Users pick up a bike from a station nearby and ride it to any other bike station. With a bike-share program, users never have to worry about maintenance or bike storage.

Source: Indiana Pacers Bike-share

About the Pacers Bikeshare program

The Indiana Pacers Bike-share program has bikes and stations throughout the downtown Indianapolis area. It cost $8 to rent the bike for 24 hours. All trips that are 30 minutes or less are free and are included with the cost of a 24-hour pass. Rides during the first additional 30 to 60 minutes cost an additional $2. Rides for each additional 30-minute ride cost $4.

An annual pass can be purchased for $80, with an unlimited amount of 30-minute-or-less rides. The same rates apply to a 24-hour pass and an annual pass when riding for longer than 30-minute rides.

Users can check out and return the bikes at any kiosk in the Pacers Bike-share network. The pass for riding can be paid with a debit or credit card at the kiosks or online.

Source: Indiana Pacers Bike-share

What's next

The Columbus Parks Foundation is planning two public meetings in March to gauge public interest and gain public input on launching a bike-sharing program to Columbus.

Those public meetings are:

  • 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 10 at the Donner Center, 739 22nd St., Columbus.
  • 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 12 at The Commons, 300 Washington St., Columbus.