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Columbus pondering bike rental scheme for downtown

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Columbus city officials are considering a bike-rental scheme for the downtown area that could be in place by 2013.

Seemingly modeled after the highly successful Velib program from Paris, France, and adopted by other cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and Denver, the scheme would place racks of rental bikes at various locations around downtown, the Arena District, and the Short North for renters to get around at will.

Credit card readers built into the racks would allow riders to get an hourly, daily, or longer pass for bike use to get around town quickly and easily, without the constant hassle of parking. Passes could be available for a day, week, month, year, etc.

The Minneapolis and Paris models feature easily identifiable bikes with ad space sold on them, helping cut the costs a bit and promoting local businesses. Paris features silver bikes while Minneapolis has a fleet of lime-green bikes available for use.

Columbus currently has had a bike-sharing program in the Short North, called Everyone Bikes, since August 2009. In this program, the bikes are free but are limited to the Short North neighborhood.

A number of considerations need to be taken up before this is done. Enforcement of traffic laws for both cyclists and motorists would need to be ramped up for the safety of all, as riding bikes on sidewalks is illegal (though rarely enforced) in Columbus and very dangerous to pedestrians (as well as the cyclists themselves). Education for cyclists, motorists, and police on this issue will be vital.

An understanding about how increased bicycle traffic would affect bus routes and operation is another issue, particularly with the increased ridership that COTA is experiencing of late.

And the issue of helmets will likely come up. Though there is currently no helmet law for adults in the city, there is one for children.

But all in all, this move is a very positive one for the city. It will offer a way for downtown residents and workers to get some exercise, have some cheap transportation, and remove cars from the downtown streets to improve traffic.

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