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Cedar Rapids bike share program slated to start in May

E-bikes, e-scooters, fat bikes to be available for rent in downtown

VeoRide operates 20 bike-share programs in the United States, and Cedar Rapids is finalizing a contract for the company to operate a program here. (Photo submitted by VeoRide)
VeoRide operates 20 bike-share programs in the United States, and Cedar Rapids is finalizing a contract for the company to operate a program here. (Photo submitted by VeoRide)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — A bike-share program is slated to launch May 13 in Cedar Rapids with a fleet of 150 electric-assist bikes, 30 e-scooters and 90 docking stations in downtown Cedar Rapids.

This summer, 20 fat tire bikes will be added to the fleet and stationed near Mount Trashmore, which added biking and hiking trails last year. Local officials are working on education and rules to ensure safety for users as well as pedestrians in advance of the launch.

“Our goal is to prevent bike and scooter conflicts with pedestrians, especially in busy areas,” said Bill Micheel, the city’s assistant community development director.

The Cedar Rapids launch coincides with the start of Bike to Work Week, a national movement that promotes cycling to work.

Meanwhile, in Iowa City, officials are in process of amending its ordinances to treat electric bicycles the same as regular bicycles. Staff are negotiating with a company to provide them in the spring.

Coralville has a small bike-share program at the Iowa River Landing, with three standard bikes available for rent.

Cedar Rapids has an agreement with VeoRide, which has offices in Chicago and West Lafayette, Ind., to provide the equipment and operate the bike-share program at no cost to the city, Micheel said. Users would be able to rent the bikes through an app on their phones.

Micheel said several people have encouraged the city to include scooters, but there is some resistance among City Council members. Scooters have drawn backlash in some communities where pedestrian-scooter conflicts occur and the devices are often left scattered around the community.

“E-scooters were cool in Nashville until you get hit by the third or fourth one,” Council member Marty Hoeger said during a development committee meeting on Tuesday. “I am not a fan of them. They are laid all across the community. I get it’s a pilot program. But, you see on the news about brain injuries. Bikes are one thing, but I can’t imagine being on a scooter going down a bike lane on one of these. It’s an accident waiting to happen. I am not in favor of the e-scooter.”

Micheel acknowledged the concern but noted given all of the calls to try it in Cedar Rapids, a pilot program could at the very least answer the question of whether it would work. He said the pilot program would ideally go until October, or one riding season, but if problems arise it could be ended earlier.

The bike-share program would be a hybrid system allowing people to return bikes to a dock, which can store up to six bikes, or pay an additional fee to leave bikes free-standing within a geo-fenced area — a virtual perimeter set for the bikes. Earlier cost estimates included $1 to unlock the bike and 5 cents per minute — so a 30-minute ride would cost $2.50 — 15 cents a minute for e-scooters, and $26 per month or $100 per year for membership. In other cities with the program, an additional fee of about $1 has led to a 90 percent success rate in getting bikes returned to the docks, Micheel has said. The bikes have built in locks, so they can’t be ridden unless a user rents the bike through the app.

The city is partnering with Iowa BIG — an alternative, experience-based high school based in Cedar Rapids — to create instructional videos on how to use the bike-share program, he said.

City staff are working on revisions to ordinances in advance of the launch. These include expanding the definition of bikes to include e-bikes, defining electric standup scooters largely the same as bikes and creating a “dooring” policy — if a person in a parked vehicle opens a door into a cyclist, the driver would be liable, Micheel said.

The policy changes are scheduled to come before council at the March 26 meeting, he said.

The city is also expanding its “Walk your Wheels” campaign to discourage riding bikes and scooters on sidewalks in the core area, which is banned. Riding bikes and scooters on sidewalks is allowed away from the downtown area.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

Gazette reporter Madison Arnold contributed to this report.

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