WILMINGTON — Bike-sharing might not be a new concept, having been originally developed in Amsterdam several decades ago, but it would be new for Downtown Wilmington.
During its Monday morning agenda review meeting, the Wilmington City Council heard from members of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization regarding the implementation of such a system in the downtown area.
“Implementing a bike-share program was one of the midterm strategies and priorities of the WMPO’s transportation and demand management plan,” WMPO Executive Director Mike Kozlosky said.
So what exactly is bike-sharing?
“Bike-sharing is a service in which bicycles are made available for short-term use and are shared among citizens and visitors of the community, Kozlosky said.
Bike-share programs started in Europe with the White Bike system in Amsterdam. In the 1990s the system was brought to Copenhagen where users would insert a coin into the bike when they wanted to use it, and would be able to get their money back when it was returned.
It was not until later that bike-share programs became money-making systems and by 2015, as technology grew, there were more than 1 million bike-share bikes worldwide, Kozlosky said.
Programs already exist in Wilmington for bike-sharing, but only at UNCW. Bike-sharing is ideal for short distance trips especially in locations like colleges, urban areas, and business campuses, according to proponents of the program.
Not only would bike-sharing help vistors and locals in Downtown get around quicker, downtown streets could see a decrease in vehicular traffic, according to Kozlosky, who added that the system is cost effective and convenient.
In 2017, the WMPO released a request for proposals for different bike-sharing companies to apply to. Four different companies sent in proposals and the WMPO chose three of them for further consideration.
In May a WMPO committee voted to select the company Pace as the proposed bike-share provider in the region.
One of the reasons the WMPO selected Pace was the fact they are a “docked vendor” Kozlosky said.
“There are really two types of bike-share programs, there is the docked program and then there is the dockless. There was concern amongst the committee members of going to the dockless service because there’s no real management, they show up everywhere,” he said.
The docked system would require all bikes to be returned to specified locations where bike racks of some sort were already installed. The bikes would also be equipped with GPS tracking and payment and rental agreements would take place through a smartphone.
The program if implemented would not cost the municipality to get the bikes in Wilmington. If approved, Pace would like likely begin a program in January of 2019.
The company is asking for a two-year contract which the WMPO and city will have to approve before they begin the program.
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