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Bike share program coming to Cincinnati this summer

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Despite the cold and snow, the January meeting of Queen City Bike, a local advocacy organization for Cincinnati bicyclists, had some bright news. Jason Barron, the recently named executive director of Cincy Bike Share, announced at the meeting that they expect to have twenty bike kiosks up and running in downtown Cincinnati by June of this year.

As in other cities, people can join the bike share program for a yearly fee of about $75 and use their membership card to take a bike for an hour or less anytime, anywhere in the system. Riding from kiosk to kiosk will allow bike riders to get around the city center and Over the Rhine more quickly, without worrying about parking. Kiosks are planned at strategic sites from the sports stadiums on the river up to Findlay Market in the first phase of the program. Visitors and others can also utilize the shared bicycles using a credit card without being members of the program.

The bicycles are rugged three-speed models with baskets at front and back, and every bike will have front and back lights as well as a horn for safety. There will be 200 bikes distributed among the twenty kiosks, and the bikes will cost about $1300 each. Cincy Bike Share has raised about a third of the funds needed for Phase I, with large donation from the Hale Foundation and Interact for Health.

At the Queen City Bike meeting, Barron said that the group’s bicyclists are not really the target market for Cincy Bike Share. Instead, the program will aim to get people who don’t regularly ride bicycles to adopt the kiosk bikes as an efficient way to get around town. He noted that although the first bikes will roll on Cincinnati streets at the beginning of summer, they expect the program to be even more popular in winter, when riders may opt for a two-minute bike ride instead of a twenty-minute walk in chilly weather.

Cincy Bike Share is a nonprofit, privately owned system that grew out of a committee of Leadership Cincinnati, which sponsored a feasibility study published in September 2012. B-Cycle, based in Madison, Wisconsin, will supply the bikes and kiosks, and the system will operate 24 hours a day. Cincy Bike Share is currently fundraising for the balance needed to get the program started, and has expectations of starting to get bikes and having kiosks installed as early as April. The bikes will be assembled by volunteers, but when the program is running, Cincy Bike Share will employ several bike technicians to maintain the equipment.

In addition, computer software will allow employees to keep track of where all the bikes in the system are, and bikes will be shifted as needed to keep them distributed evenly throughout the system. Future plans call for expansion of the bike share program to other areas, including Newport and Covington, Clifton, and other city neighborhoods.

Cincy Bike Share estimates annual operating costs at about $500,000, in addition to the $750,000 in start-up costs they still need to raise. They are hoping to garner sponsorship deals, such as Citi Bank’s association with the bike share program in New York City, but perhaps on a more piecemeal basis, with different companies sponsoring individual kiosks, for example. They also expect user fees and memberships to cover much of the yearly costs.

Barron brought a Cincy Bike Share prototype to the Queen City Bike meeting, held at Arnold’s Bar, and told attendees that in just a few short months, there may well be an entire kiosk of the bikes in that block of Eighth Street. What’s even more impressive is that the Cincy Bike Share program, if it kicks off in June, will have moved from feasibility study to bikes on the street in well under two years—quite a feat for slow-moving Cincinnati.

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