Changes are in store for the second year of the city’s bike-share program, utilizing results from a recent Six Sigma study that suggested modifying rental times and pricing, as well as taking steps to increase awareness of the program.

ColumBIKE launched its eight bike-rental stations — most of them downtown — on May 21 and saw nearly all of its 78-bicycle inventory used over the program’s first seven months. The fleet has since grown by one with the purchase of another Bcycle unit.

The bike-share program got off to a fast start, with 60 annual memberships purchased during the launch — three-fourths of the 81 annual passes riders bought throughout the calendar year, according to first-year statistics compiled by the Columbus Park Foundation, which secured funding to start and operate the program.

Usage was also highest at the launch, with 31.5 rides per day in May.

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Statistics showed that ride volume dropped each successive month, however. A hot summer and frequent thunderstorms contributed to bike-rental slippage from August through October, ColumBIKE interim director Dick Boyce said.

After seeing early trends, the park foundation launched a survey in September to collect information that would help identify potential changes that would increase ColumBIKE usage.

The study, sent to 2,000 people with 500 of them responding, analyzed what people liked about ColumBIKE and what kept them from trying the rental bikes.

It also sought to identify possible incentives that would increase ridership, with survey feedback used to understand what customers of the program want.

“People who ride the bikes are having an amazing experience. They really enjoy it,” said Andrew Myer of Cummins Inc., who conducted the survey using Six Sigma methodology that measures control issues. “That’s such an amazing thing to draw upon and grow upon.”

Matt Meek, a Cummins employee and annual ColumBIKE pass holder, said he likes the convenience it provides for him to travel between Cummins buildings sprinkled through the downtown area.

“The bike stations make for an easy and quick commute. My primary reason is convenience, but I certainly enjoy a chance to get a few minutes in during the work day,” Meek said.

Laura Garrett, community initiatives lead for Healthy Communities, uses ColumBIKE equipment frequently to travel from her office at Columbus Regional Hospital to places in downtown Columbus for meetings or lunch.

Garrett’s first experience with the bike-share program, which has a kiosk conveniently located on the hospital campus, was during the May launch.

Having signed up for an annual membership, Garrett said she likes the convenience of not having to bring her bike from home, not having to worry about downtown parking and the chance to relax on the ride.

“I like just the active riding. You just notice more things,” Garrett said. “You ride, listen to the birds, look at the river.”

Overcoming obstacles

Among people surveyed who either didn’t enjoy the experience or had not tried the bike-share program, feedback indicated that the biggest hurdles were the pricing structure, a requirement that riders check in every 30 minutes and that Columbus was perceived as not being a bike-friendly community.

“That bike-friendly community (finding) was huge,” Myer said. “It makes you think about the aspect that people say ‘I don’t feel safe riding a bike in downtown Columbus.’ And so that’s something we really need to look at … what are the aspects causing that and how can we improve that?”

Boyce felt the best way to reverse the perception of Columbus not being bike-friendly would be to increase bicyclists’ comfort level when riding.

The survey found that safety concerns decreased rapidly for people who tried the bike-share program, while riders who had tried the bikes were happy with the experience, he said.

Users also wanted longer ride intervals, suggesting that the required 30-minute check-in requirement be eased, the survey found.

That change is likely to be implemented this spring after software changes are made and pricing decals are updated, Boyce said.

Other feedback included a suggestion to expand the program geographically to include more bike stations in other areas of the community, closer to the homes of potential riders — an idea that will be reviewed further, he said.

Garrett was among those who thought a longer check-put period would be beneficial, but she also would like to see bikes in more places throughout the community.

“It’d be nice if there were more stations in more places, or if you could have it out for a longer period of time,” Garrett said.

Other upcoming changes to the program include an hourly pricing structure, monthly newsletters and user-incentive programs.

Boyce said ColumBIKE will be re-launched this year during the spring and summer months, looking to renew potential riders’ interest in the bike-share program and making it a sustainable operation for years to come, Boyce said.

“As we continue to push this forward, the real shift of this is going to be looking at how do we truly pull people in and how do we get that first experience to be rewarding,” Myer said.

The Columbus bike-share program was recognized by October by rental-bike manufacturer Bcycle for bringing a world-class system to a small city, and becoming the company’s 34th program.

Other North American cities to implement bike-share programs last year included Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Vancouver, British Columbus, said Lee Jones, Bcycle’s director of business development, who spoke during the park foundation’s Feb. 16 annual meeting.

“We really feel that that is a testament of the effort that has been going on here to make this a reality,” Jones said.

ColumBIKE by the numbers

Here are some statistics from ColumBIKE’s debut year.

Kiosks: 8

Bikes: 79

Number of annual members: 81

Total bike trips taken: 3,000

Estimated calories burned: 497,370

Miles traveled: 12,479

Gallons of gasoline saved: 1,326

Source: 2016 ColumBIKE annual report

ColumBIKE costs and information

There are current three pricing options for ColumBIKE:

  • Annual pass: $80
  • Monthly pass: $20
  • 24-hour pass: $8

The ColumBIKE team is now located at 951 2nd St. Information: 844-742-2453.

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

Pull Quote

“I like just the active riding. You just notice more things. You ride, listen to the birds, look at the river.”

— Laura Garrett, community initiatives lead for Healthy Communities

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