City’s bike-sharing program almost ready to roll

Columbus roads could soon be filled with residents and visitors riding around town on two rented wheels.

The city’s BikeShare program will start sometime in mid-May, with 72 bikes available at seven rental stations, said April Williams, project and resource development director for the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.

Wisconsin-based BCycle was paid about $288,000, or about $4,000 per bike, Williams said. The total includes the price of docking stations with bikes, maps and a credit card reader for payment, she said.

The payment device will allow people with annual subscriptions to swipe a special card granting unlimited access to the bikes. The initial startup cost for the project was paid through a combination of donations from Columbus Regional Hospital and an anonymous donor, Williams said.

Five of the kiosks will cluster around downtown Columbus, Williams said. One station will be located near the pool at Donner Park and another will be located at Columbus Regional Hospital. Eventually, the program could expand to other areas of the city, including the Columbus Learning Center near the airport and Clifty Park near Columbus East High School. However, downtown seemed like a natural starting place, Williams said. A lot of people work and live in the area and most of the city’s tourism resources are focused there.

Samantha Kimsey, who joined the kidscommons staff about 18 months ago, is one of those downtown workers.

“I’m kind of restricted here. If I want something different for lunch or I need to run somewhere, a bike would be better for me,” Kimsey said.

This isn’t her first experience with a bike-sharing program. Over the years, Kimsey has used similar systems in bigger cities such as London and New York. Not all of those experiences were positive, however, she said.

“It can be really scary when they first start doing it,” Kimsey said.

Suddenly, cars will be dealing with bikes in places where, before, bikes were not common.

Even pedestrians may need to change their regular walking habits to adjust.

But any potential risks are more than offset by potential benefits from the program, Williams said.

Biking is great exercise. Bikes will make it easier for downtown employees to move around town and the clear, Columbus-themed badges on each bike are great advertisements for the city, Williams said.

In fact, out-of-town tourists are vital to the program’s success, said Karen Niverson, executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center. Her organization already offers a variety of guided walking tours through downtown Columbus.

“There is real potential in the idea of bike tours,” Niverson said.

One of the new bike stations will be located in the courtyard area between the visitors center and the library.

“This was always an idea, but the question was always where to get bikes,” said Chad Heimlich, a three-year veteran walking tour guide and Bartholomew County Community Corrections supervisor.

Bike tours will likely add a new dynamic to the visitor center’s existing programs, Heimlich said. While it will allow guides to cover more ground than walking, higher speeds and blowing wind will make communication more difficult.

This may create the need for frequent stops along routes and possibly even the creation of simple informational stations around town.

So far, the visitors center is in the earliest planning stages of its bike tour program. While none of the specific details are yet available, both Niverson and Heimlich agree on one detail.

Neither want tours to focus exclusively on the city’s 25-miles of paved People’s Trails. While these could be a strong component of any future plans, many of the city’s best attractions are not located along these routes, Heimlich said.

BikeShare locations

Columbus’ new BikeShare program, which will start in Mid-May, will begin with seven kiosks around the city where people can rent the bikes. They are:

  • Mill Race Transit Center, 850 Lindsey St.
  • Donner Park (near pool), 22nd and Sycamore streets
  • Columbus Regional Hospital, 2400 17th St.
  • Fourth and Washington streets
  • Fifth and Jackson streets
  • Fifth and California streets
  • Bartholomew County Public Library, 536 Fifth St.

Bikeshare pricing

Bike rental costs for the city’s new BikeShare program:

  • Annual Pass: $80
  • Day Pass: $8
  • Hourly Pass: $4

More information on the Columbus BikeShare program can be found on the Columbus Park Foundation website at columbusparkfoundation.org/bikeshare-program/