Metro to expand bike-share program with fee-based system

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 4:13pm

Metro officials are expanding the city’s bike-share program, but unlike the existing system that operates on greenways, riders will have to pay to take trips on bicycles from this second service.

Mayor Karl Dean hopped on a bike with an oversized basket Tuesday, and took a quick spin around the downtown public square to showcase one of 200 bicycles that will be available through the city’s Nashville B-cycle program, designed to accommodate short trips within a three-mile downtown radius.

“The idea is, if people can use these bikes — whether they’re Nashville residents or visitors to our city — to go destinations not too far off, they can then leave the bike at their destination,” Dean explained before he strapped on his helmet.

“They’ll be a charge for that, but it will be relatively minimal fee,” he added.

The B-cycle program, set to officially launch later this year, comes two years after the city launched its original bike share program dubbed Nashville GreenBikes, setting up stations at Shelby Park and Riverfront Park before expanding to nine locations across the county. Free of charge, the program allows patrons to loan and return bikes on the same day.

Like Nashville GreenBikes — which has a ridership that peaks at approximately 400 rentals per month, but sometimes reaches as low as 100 — the latest bike-share program comes from a $7.5 million federal grant that Metro landed from the federal government three years ago.

But there’s a distinction: Bicycles accessible via the new B-cycle program will require an undetermined fee that riders must pay at automated kiosks, which officials are planning to place at 20 downtown-area bike stations. The idea is also a same-day rental and return policy.

“It’s really just to keep the system maintained and funded, and to generate some revenues to be able to ensure that the bikes are running and to ultimately expand,” said Alisa Haushalter, bureau director of the Metro Health Department, which is overseeing the project in conjunction with the Nashville Downtown Partnership.

The price tag isn’t set, but officials working on the project say cities with similar systems sometimes charge between $50 to $60 for yearly B-cycle passes. Chicago, Houston and Denver have comparable B-Cycle programs. The system originated in Waterloo, Wis.

In the years ahead, Haushalter said officials would begin exploring mechanisms to allow B-cycle participation from people who cannot afford the fee-based approach. “But, we’ll have to monitor first to see how the system goes,” she said.

“The GreenBikes are really promoted as recreational use,” Haushalter said, adding that the kiosk-style bikes are geared for personal transit. “They’re usually intended for short distance rides for a specific purpose like going to a meeting or going to a restaurant.”

Metro’s second dip into the bike-share model comes as Dean continues to be the face of NashVitality, a campaign aimed at promoting healthy, active lifestyles. Dollars for NashVitality are carved from the same federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant that has made Nashville’s bike-share system possible.

Metro Public Health Department Director Bill Paul noted the health benefits of the city’s bike share program. “The more people see bicycles in Nashville then the more bicycling will be done, the more physical activity, and it’s a healthy thing,” he said.

Metro officials and the Downtown Nashville Partnership will roll out the B-cycle system before the public three times this week.

Wednesday, Aug. 1, at Vanderbilt University, 21st Avenue South and Terrace Place; Thursday, Aug. 2, Five Points in East Nashville, corner of South 10th Street and Main Street; Friday, Aug. 3, Nashville Farmers’ Market, outdoor dining area on Seventh Avenue side.

8 Comments on this post:

By: itsmyfirstday on 8/1/12 at 5:39

7.5 million for 200 bikes...that's 37,500 per bike. No wonder we are going broke.


By: Magnum on 8/1/12 at 3:45

Simple enough idea and one I actually like...well at least until the government has time to really screw it up and start losing money hand over fist. In a few years, it wouldn't surprise me to see they have a shop with a full time mechanic or two to work on bikes, a couple of state vehicles to go pick up any bikes with mechanical failure (tire puncture, chain slippage, etc.), a few 6 hour a day administrators, a full time, friend of a friend vendor in charge of ensuring the kiosks work, and so on and so forth. Shouldn't take long until they're in the red once the grant money runs out.

By: JeffF on 8/1/12 at 3:55

don't look at as $7.5 million for 200 bikes. Look at it as $7.5 million for 13 bike rides per day max. If we could get a couple of them to rideshare we could lease them a helicopter.

I am guessing that these bike stops will be parallel to the already missplaced bus routes.

By: EDUNITED on 8/2/12 at 6:24

Another politically correct but ridiculous waste of tax dollars. I guess this grant was for a "shovel ready" project.

How many policemen and teachers could $7.5m have paid for? Could this amount have fixed a bridge?

Ed vanVoorhees

By: Magnum on 8/2/12 at 11:52

I don't think they spent $7.5 million on the bike program. The article isn't clear, but it appears that a portion of that money was used.

By: Jughead on 8/2/12 at 11:52

Another waste of tax dollars. Just like the car charging stations, and every other stupid "green" expenditure.

Karl Marx Dean is committed to wasting taxpayer dollars--then return to his millionaire wife each night.

And, Metro Council is no better--they will spend us into bankruptcy, then run for cover. Creeps.

By: Jughead on 8/2/12 at 11:54

Nobody will use these.

Karl Dean needs to--he is fat, then preaches healthy crapola to us. In the end, it is just Dean and his pals stuffing his cronies' pockets with tax dollars.

By: Shadow63 on 8/4/12 at 4:32

Hmm, works out to between 3 and 13 rides per day. Who's riding, the homeless people commuting to their hiway on ramps?
Magnum, you're probably right, the rest of the money went into one of Dean's pork barrels to buy votes for his next political gambit.