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Sacramentans will soon be able to borrow bicycles in Midtown for free – if they’re fast – or for a nominal fee as a group moves forward with a pilot bicycle-sharing program that will launch by June 11.
Starting small with just 12 bicycles for a six-month trial, Ride Your Own Way allows anyone with a credit card to rent a bicycle from an automated station, which organizers say is perfect for the Midtown and downtown lifestyle.
Renting a bicycle is free for the first 30 minutes, and a $2 per half hour charge is applied after that.
“I see this having many uses,” said Rob Kerth, Executive Director of the Midtown Business Association, which is a partner in the endeavor. “Folks who don’t have a bike but don’t want to deal with parking at lunchtime would be a perfect example.”
Similar programs are in place at other cities, including Washington, D.C., and Paris.
The pilot program will run for six months, after which it will be evaluated, according to Kerth, who added that no concrete date for the evaluation has been set.
“If people get behind it, we’ll definitely grow it, but if they yawn and walk away, probably not,” he said, adding that there are no plans to scrap the program after six months.
If the program grows, he said he can also see having rental stations at light rail and bus stops, which office workers commuting on public transit could use to ride to their offices, where they would be able to drop the bicycle off at a nearby station.
For now, cyclists who rent at stations located within the Priority Parking lots at 28th and J streets and 16th and I streets must return the bicycles where they picked them up.
Watch the video below, where Kerth explains how the system works.
The $200 authorization is not charged to your credit card, but is only on hold until the bicycle is returned, at which point the actual cost is charged.
Kerth said he has used the system in Washington, D.C., which he described as very extensive, with more than 50 rental kiosks.
The idea was floated within the city of Sacramento as many as 10 years ago, according to City Councilman Steve Cohn, but it was never officially proposed.
Cohn said he was again looking into a similar program a year ago, but on a larger level, and finding a sponsor proved difficult.
“It’s kind of a pilot program to see how it works and can maybe grow into something similar to Washington, D.C., and Paris,” Cohn said. “If it’s promising, it can grow. Obviously, we’d like to add more downtown and closer to the Capitol and City Hall.”
As the program grows, Cohn said it makes the most sense to focus on the central city, but he can also see it expanding to the farther reaches as well if it is embraced by the community.
The Bianchi Milano eight-speed bicycles were provided by Midtown bicycle shop Ikon Cycles, 1126 18th St.
“I had some extra money and I thought it was kind of an investment in Sacramento,” Ikon Cycles owner Adrian Moore said. “I’d like to see a private entity be able to run it and profit from it, but the reality is there really is very little profit in bike share programs.”
Moore said he expects the six-month program to help determine if it’s feasible for a private business to run it, but he said it makes sense to partner with the city or have a nonprofit organization run it.
“I’m just afraid that if it’s run only by a private company, and it goes away, that it will never come back,” he said.
Currently, there is no city money in the program.
Moore bought the bicycles on close-out from Bianchi for $4,000, including accessories, he said, and the MBA spent about $3,000 in construction costs at the sites, which were donated by Priority Parking, Kerth said. He added that Curb Systems donated the equipment at the sites that holds and releases the bicycles.
Cohn said he thinks the city would be willing to donate some of the public right of way spaces it controls to future kiosk locations, but he doesn’t think a private entity alone will be able to run the program on a large scale.
Kerth said partnering with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments or Regional Transit would make sense, and they might be able to write grants for the program.
“It wouldn’t take very much at all to keep this going,” Kerth said. “Sacramento is great bicycle country. We have tree-lined streets, it’s flat and the weather is great for it.”
He added that Sacramento has an air quality problem, and for every person who would ride light rail from Folsom and grab a bicycle from a convenient station, it would save a roughly 40-mile commute and cut down on traffic and parking congestion.
Moore, originally from Portland, said he hopes a program like this one can work with zip cars and other infrastructure projects, including the planned downtown bicycle lanes, to make the city less reliant on cars.
One concern with the program is bicycle theft, which is a significant problem in the area.
Currently, the bicycles are being modified to prevent theft, and locks might or might not be provided as the program moves forward.
“It’s difficult with the locks,” Moore said, adding that locks have been purchased and will initially be included with the bicycles, and renters will be able to set their own combinations.
“I’m not sure that’s going to work as it goes forward,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to figure out in the six months, but I can see it going to a lock rental system too, especially if we could get a vending machine company to donate to us.”
For helmets, riders are encouraged to bring their own, but Moore said he will be renting them out of his shop for a low rate, possibly around $3 per day.
The program in Paris, which is coming up on its fourth anniversary, has proven very successful, according to a March press release from city officials.*
Since its inception, bicycles have been rented close to 100 million times, according to the release, which adds that in that time, riders have traveled enough to circle the world 8,000 times, save 44,000 tons of CO2 emissions and burn calories equivalent to 10 million hamburgers.
*Editor’s note: Press release translated from French by Brandon Darnell.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.