City considers bike share program for peninsula

If the bike share program is approved, the city wants a minimum of 10 bike stations throughout the peninsula. (Photo/Liz Segrist)If the bike share program is approved, the city wants a minimum of 10 bike stations throughout the peninsula. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

By Liz Segrist
Published June 3, 2014

Residents and tourists could soon be renting bikes for the day in downtown Charleston.

The city of Charleston recently received three proposals from private vendors for a potential bike share program, said Tim Keane, the city’s director for Planning Preservation & Sustainability.

Bike share programs involve having bike stations placed throughout the city where people can rent the bikes for an allotted time. Many bike share programs offer daily subscriptions, as well as annual memberships.

Keane said the peninsula’s density and urban layouts makes it ideal for a bike sharing program. It could help alleviate some of the congestion in a growing city constrained by water boundaries.

The city envisions a minimum of 10 stations throughout the peninsula with around 10 to 20 bikes per station. Keane said bike stations would likely be in well-known public areas, such as Marion Square, Liberty Square and White Point Garden near the Battery.

The city is setting up a committee to review the proposals and recommend a vendor to operate the program to Charleston City Council, who could vote on the program this summer, Keane said. If approved, the vendor would fund the bike share program and implementation.

The city would work with the vendor to decide station locations and regulations, such as whether helmets would be required and who would be legally responsible if an accident occurred.

Interest in a bike share program has been building from some companies, residents, pro-cycling groups and city officials for years, but the city did not wish to fund it, Keane said. When private prospects began approaching the city recently about funding the project on their own, the city moved forward with requests for proposals.

“Some cities have implemented this almost as a PR measure to say they have one versus others who use it as a serious mode of transportation. ... In Charleston, we expect people to really use it to get around,” Keane said.

One of the first bike share programs in the country was the Yellow Bike Project, which began in Portland in the mid-1990s and expanded throughout the country, including to Charleston. But bike thefts ended the program.

Bike share systems have since popped up in cities all over the country, such as Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., Citi Bike in New York City and Bay Area Bike Share system in San Francisco.

“Bike share programs have withstood the test of time in other cities in terms of a system that actually works,” Keane said.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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