This week Cedar Rapids joined the bike share revolution, and it was a welcome sight.
Discussed by city and business leaders for several years, the bike share program that debuted this week (in conjunction with Bike To Work Week) provides the least possible financial risk for the city and its taxpayers. A contractor, VeoRide of Chicago, will operate on profits from the venture and is absorbing most startup and maintenance costs. A grant from the Wellmark Foundation cover the cost of several bike share stations.
The initial rollout included 22 share stations and 45 electric-assist bikes, which give actively pedaling riders a boost. The city anticipates expanding the program in June to about 90 share stations and 150 bikes, concentrated in the downtown, New Bohemia, Czech Village, Kingston Village and MedQuarter neighborhoods. In addition, a pilot scooter program has been planned from August to October, to coincide with the start of the fall semester at Coe College.
Although rides during this initial week were free, regular fees began today. It costs $1 to unlock a bike, and an additional 15 cents for each minute of use — paid through the VeoRide smartphone app, which also unlocks the bikes. Discounts are available for low-income riders.
All-in-all, it is a respectable start for a new “last mile” and local commuter public transit service. But we hope the bike share program doesn’t end where it begins.
Accessibility is a future concern, since initial offerings do not include options for those with disabilities. Public transportation, even those options not directly operated by the city or tied to the Americans with Disabilities Act, should not result in an even more segregated society, but should strive to leave no residents behind.
Studies show bike share users are typically wealthy and white. The Cedar Rapids system appears to cater specifically to this demographic by emphasizing short trips in business-heavy districts. City leaders, who are cooperating with Iowa BIG for awareness and information campaigns, can choose to directly confront the disparities that have plagued programs in other cities.
Finally, changes to traffic flow, especially in the Downtown District, have been swift. Protected bike lanes and continued education on bicycle safety should provide an added safety net for bike-share riders. Even so, many motorists continue to grapple with transitions from one-way to two-way streets as well as new intersection controls. We strongly encourage the city to revisit its comprehensive streets strategy and reconsider the wisdom of early recommendations for four-way stop intersections.
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New and experienced bicyclists, of course, also shoulder responsibility for their own safety. That includes wearing proper safety gear, obeying the rules of the road, using bike lanes, wearing bright colors and being vigilant about potential dangers. While monetary incentives should help keep the shared bikes contained to their stations, we remind riders to keep the needs of pedestrians and vehicles in mind when visiting a business or ending their bike ride.
The implementation of a bike-share program is encouraging. Making it a true success will take the cooperation of city officials, vendors, local business leaders, motorists and riders. We’re betting Cedar Rapids is up to the task.
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