CEDAR RAPIDS — A new vendor has emerged to launch a bike share program with 200 bikes stationed in the core of Cedar Rapids before Bike to Work Week in May.
In addition to traditional bikes, city staff are exploring electric-assist bikes and scooters as part of the rental offerings. Rental scooters have become widely popular in some cities, such as along the coast of California and Charlotte, N.C.
“We are doing bikes for sure,” said Bill Micheel, assistant community development director. “We are currently in the process of considering e-bikes and e-scooters. We are also looking at hand-pedal bikes that are (American’s With Disabilities Act) accessible. We haven’t made a final decision on e-bikes or scooters, but we do know there is significant interest. We want to make sure this works with our community.”
City staff are finalizing a contract with VeoRide, which has offices in Chicago and West Lafayette, Ind., and operates 20 bike-share programs around the country, including in Pella. Launched in March 2017, VeoRide was the highest scoring of five vendors to respond to a call for proposals from Cedar Rapids.
Upon the recommendation of city staff, the Cedar Rapids City Council rejected four vendors bidding on an estimated $570,000 contract to provide just the equipment for a bike share in October. A separate contract would have been needed for an operator.
City staff discovered a new business model in which the same vendor would supply and own the equipment and operate the bike-share program. The only cost to the city would be for signs and educational information about walking bikes on the sidewalk, Micheel said.
“It’s less risk for the city and less cost for the city,” he said.
“In the new business model, the operator would own and maintain the equipment,” Micheel said. “If you own the equipment, you are stuck with it as technology changes. As technology changes, the equipment would get rotated out after three years or so, we’d get new equipment with new technology.”
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The city will still hold the contract, so it can control how large the system is and require changes if there are problems, Micheel said.
The contract falls below the city’s financial threshold for a City Council vote, so it does not need the panel’s approval, Micheel said, but he said Council members have been supportive throughout the process of getting a bike-share program started.
VeoRide will seek sponsorships and earn revenue from rentals and memberships.
Micheel said preliminary user cost estimates include $1 to unlock the bike and 5 cents per minute, so a 30-minute ride would cost $2.50. E-bikes could cost 15 cents a minute, Micheel said. Memberships could cost $26 per month or $100 per year, he said.
The bike share would be a hybrid between a dockless and docked system. The bikes would have GPS tracking and would be required to be left within a geofenced area — a virtual boundary — likely near the core of downtown. Ideally, the bikes would be returned to one of 20 docks around the core of the city, but for an additional fee they could simply be left outside a building or on a sidewalk, for example, Micheel said.
The fee, perhaps an additional $1, leads to a 90 percent success rate at getting bikes returned to the docks, Micheel said. The bikes have built in locks, so they can’t be ridden unless a user rents the bike.
The hybrid system minimize bikes being scattered around the city, which has plagued some cities with fully dockless systems, Micheel said.
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