ColumBIKE has attracted a healthy number of bike riders since the bike-share program opened for business this spring, but organizers are working to get more.

In the first six months of operation for the year-round program, July has been the biggest month with 745 trips taken, said Dick Boyce, Columbus Park Foundation volunteer coordinator.

After that, weather became a factor as check-out statistics tapered off.

Boyce cited a hot summer and frequent thunderstorms as reasons for bike-rental slippage in August, September and October. August was particularly rough for outdoor touring, with local temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s most of the month.

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“It is difficult to get someone to ride in a thunderstorm, or incredibly humid weather,” Boyce said.

Regardless of the weather, ColumBIKE has seen nearly all of its inventory used. Out of the 78 bikes available to rent, all have been utilized and a grand total of 2,892 trips have been taken.

ColumBIKE opened its kiosks for rentals May 21, placing the white BCycle bikes among eight stations around Columbus. Locations are clustered around downtown Columbus, but also include one at Donner Park and another at Columbus Regional Hospital.

Riders purchase passes based on their interests.

Monthly passes, at $20, and annual passes, at $80, are available. As a member, you have paid for 30-minute intervals for that month or year. Effectively, you will not see additional charges if you follow the guidelines.

The only option for prospects without a long-term pass is to pay $8 for a 24-hour rental, checking the bike in at a docking station every 30 minutes to avoid additional fees.

The ColumBIKE program was designed to emphasize healthy lifestyles, encouraging local workers to hop on a bike at lunch or for visitors to Columbus to see the city sights, said former park foundation director April Williams in an earlier interview. Williams led the effort to establish the program, but has since left the foundation.

It cost $288,000 for Wisconsin-based BCycle to provide the bikes, docking stations, map and credit card readers. Initial startup cost for the project was paid through a combination of donations from Columbus Regional Hospital and an anonymous donor, Williams said earlier.

“The bike-share program is a statement about the community we are, a community that values health,” said Beth Morris, director of community health partnerships at Columbus Regional Hospital.

Offering incentives

To encourage more bike riders, no matter the weather, the park foundation is considering implementing incentives. To come up with incentives that will boost interest, the foundation is conducting Six Sigma Black Belt study of ColumBIKE with the help of Cummins, Boyce said.

The Six Sigma study will analyze the best ways to tie bike usage to health and wellness programs in the community, as well as what incentive options might be most effective. Results from the study are expected back by spring, Boyce said.

Columbus Regional Hospital, a ColumBIKE sponsor, has offered multiple sessions to introduce hospital employees to the program.

At each of them, Morris said hospital employees have stopped in to inquire about checking out a bike.

What users say

For Matt Meek, a Cummins employee, the program provides a convenient, quick method of getting from one company building to another downtown.

Each of the buildings Meek travels to for work have a check-in location for ColumBIKE, he said. And while his trips are only a few minutes a piece, some days he uses the bikes as many as six times to shave minutes off his travel time. With such frequent usage, it is no surprise that Meek holds the top spot for most trips made by a ColumBIKE user.

Adam Reynolds, a photography instructor at Ivy Tech Community College, Columbus, said he uses the bikes for exercise.

Reynolds has a nine-mile loop he travels during the summer months — a route that reaches each of the ColumBIKE stations, he said.

By doing that, he said he can stop at a kiosk to check out the bike for another 30-minute session if he finds himself running out of time while on the loop.

The program has had mainly positive feedback, but the some of the constructive feedback has touched on the checkout process and confusion about time increments for renting, Boyce said.

“The pricing that was put in place is extremely valid in the larger cities,” Boyce said. “But I think what we are trying to do is assess whether that is what’s needed in a smaller community.”

For Reynolds, one major improvement would be longer rental times — preferably an hour-long option, he said. Currently, members can pick up a bike for free, as long as they check it back in at a dock every 30 minutes. An hour-long option would allow him to ride without pausing to dock every half hour.

Guidance from other programs

To look for ideas to improve renters’ experience, ColumBIKE customer service representative Kyle Roach and Boyce attended the BCycle World Convention Oct. 10 to 12 in Wisconsin to learn about how other cities with BCycle stations are using their bikes and kiosks.

“We ended up getting input from most of the 43 cities in the United States that have BCycle stations, and it was very enlightening,” Boyce said.

Boyce and Roach said they learned how other cities are handling rental costs and time limits and brought those ideas back to Columbus.

They have begun looking at different options as they analyze the current pricing model, something that is also being addressed through the Six Sigma study, Boyce said.

And while it has not been decided, Boyce said extending the current limit of 30 minutes to one hour is a likely move — great news for riders who enjoy longer rides and don’t want to be tied to a 30-minute deadline with a requirement to add more time at another kiosk.

Along with information on improving the bike-share program at home, Boyce and Roach learned about two new bikes — smart bikes to be exact — that will be introduced.

BCycle Dash will debut in summer 2017 and BCycle Dash+ will follow in summer 2018, a company representative said.

According to the BCycle website, the new models will have GPS capabilities with turn-by-turn capabilities and the ability to self-dock anywhere you can dock a bike.

The new models will self-lock and have a color touchscreen that can show distance and time traveled, calories burned and amount of money spent and more. The BCyce Dash+ will have all of the same features, but will be a fully integrated electrical assist model with a lithium ion battery.

Because they have the ability to self-dock and self-lock, meaning they will not necessarily need kiosks, the new bike models are targeted to cost less than the bikes and kiosks currently in use by Columbus, Boyce said.

With the help of the Six Sigma study looking at how the new models might be used locally, ColumBIKE may feature these technologically-advanced bikes down the road, Boyce said.

BCycle Now App

People interested in renting bikes can download the BCycle Now app and receive access to:

  • All eight bike station locations
  • How many bikes are currently at each station
  • How many docks are available at any given time to check their back bike in
  • Access the ColumBIKE website directly
  • Find additional information on the ColumBIKE program

An $80 membership to ColumBIKE allows app users to check out available bikes using the app in any of the bike share cities without inserting a credit card.

Get moving on ColumBIKE

Here is everything you need to know about Columbus’ new BikeShare program, ColumBIKE:

Pricing

Here are the pricing options for ColumBIKE.

Annual pass: $80, available online

Monthly pass: $20, available online

24-hour pass: $8, available at kiosks

ColumBIKE special tours: $12, available online

Additional fees

Additional fees may be charged.

Card replacement: $5

Bike replacement: $1,200

Key replacement: $10

Bike check-out and check-in

Bikes can be checked out at any of the eight stations around Columbus and may be checked back in at any station, regardless of which station it was originally docked at.

Riders must check their bikes in a docking station every 30 minutes or risk incurring a fine. Exceptions will be made for annual pass holders who check a bike out during weekday lunch hours. In those situations, the 30-minute check-in rule will be waived.

Signing up

Residents can purchase a ColumBIKE pass by visiting columbike.bcycle.com. Riders who purchase an annual pass will be sent a membership card by mail following their online registration.

For more information

To learn more about ColumBIKE, riders can visit columbike.bcycle.com or Facebook.com/columbike/timeline.

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at kevener@therepublic.com or 812-379-5633.