November 14, 2013 - 11:36pm
BY MICHAEL SUGERMAN
In August, the Ann Arbor City Council voted to move forward with the implementation of a community bike-sharing program in partnership with the Clean Energy Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of energy-independent communities. Now, months after the initiative’s launch, it needs a name.
Over the last few weeks, the CEC has hosted a naming contest on its website. The contest will close Friday, and so far there have been between 75 and 100 submissions, CEC program manager Heather Seyfarth said. The winner will be posted on the Ann Arbor Bike Share Facebook page within a few weeks.
Since August, the CEC has gathered $750,000 in capital funding for the project — $600,000 from a federal grant and $150,000 from the city — as well as a $600,000 pledge from the University to help develop and fund operations in the program’s first three years.
When the bike share program was first approved, city officials said they expected it to be the first publically available service of its kind in the state. However, A2B Bikeshare, founded by Rackham student Keith Porter and Engineering senior Ansgar Strother in the winter of 2011, launched a bike share program in August in Lansing, earning that distinction.
After an extensive selection process, the CEC chose B-Cycle — which currently has 18 bike sharing installments in the United States — over A2B because it was the “most experienced” vendor candidate, Seyfarth said. Fittingly, B-Cycle has agreed to repaint their custom red bikes in blue.
“The benefits of bike sharing are huge,” Strother said. “It lowers CO2 emissions (and) creates healthier residents. Beyond that, 40 percent of bike share rides result in some type of purchase beyond the bike share rental, so that really helps downtown economies.”
In addition to the wider community rewards, Rackham student Tom Schroeder, a bike owner, thinks local bike sharing could pay off for other students at the University.
This mentality that vexes Bill Loy, owner of Campus Student Bike Shop, who said in a September interview that a bike share system would both require “too much maintenance” and “wreck my business.”
For the time being, Loy doesn’t have much to worry about. The CEC is currently finalizing locations for its inaugural bike kiosks, and although there may be a couple on Central and North Campus, they will mostly be located in downtown Ann Arbor.
The local bike share project was originally supposed to be up and running by the fall semester of this year, but Steve Dolen, the University’s executive director of parking and transportation services, told the Daily in February that this deadline would be extended because of funding issues.
Although April is the new, more realistic goal for completion and launch, Dolen said in September that it could move to summer 2014 if electrical and siting requirements aren’t worked out by the winter.
With this in mind, the CEC is looking to finalize kiosk sites with city approval by January. The plan entails the installation of 12 to 14 stations with 125 bikes total, Seyfarth said. After the plan is approved, the city will prepare the locations for construction and install the kiosks, ideally by April or May. In a community outreach effort, Ann Arbor residents may be invited to help assemble and deliver the B-Cycle bikes when the time comes.
University alum Micheline Maynard, a transportation journalist, has a vision for the expansion of bike share in the context of general public transportation and shared this view in a presentation to the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition Wednesday night.
“One of the focuses of bike sharing is this idea called ‘last mile,’” Maynard said. “Say, In Palo Alto, California, you can take a train from San Francisco to a station in Palo Alto, and then Stanford is about a mile away. So the idea is that you take the train and then jump on a bike-sharing bike to get to the Stanford Campus. For Detroit eventually, if Detroit ever gets a good bus system or light rail system, there will be docks right at the stations so you jump off and ride a bike to the (University).”