Chicago bike-sharing program to start this summer
Leaving from Chicago's Nay Pier and heading north along the lakefront on a breezy day last March, I experienced the shortest, slowest, most expensive and best bike ride my family has shared in quite some time. On a four-seat quadcycle we rented for an hour from Bike and Roll Chicago, my wife and I pedaled hard as our six- and seven-year-old kids noted the many runners, inline skaters and cyclists passing us on the dramatically cambered concrete.
Not more than 20 minutes and 1.5 miles later, we pulled over, got off and turned the unwieldy Italian-made quadcycle around and headed back. We hooted, sang and made no attempt to pretend we were anything but tourists. It was a blast.,
Bike and Roll Chicago charges $38 an hour for a quadcycle and $20 for a tandem. Adult single bikes, be it a three-speed cruisers, mountain, road or hand cycle, cost $35 to $100 per day. It's a little cheaper to reserve bikes from the outfit online at www.bikechicago.com.
Soon Chicago visitors and residents alike will be able to rent bikes for trips throughout downtown much more cost effectively because the Windy City is jumping on the bike-sharing bandwagon.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in mid-March the selection of Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., of Portland, Oregon, to make 3,000 bikes available at 300 solar-powered stations this summer, with expansion to 5,000 bikes and 500 stations by 2012, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The $18 million in start-up costs will be covered by $18 million in federal air quality and traffic congestion mitigation grants and $3 million from the city. Membership fees, advertising and sponsorships will cover the on-going costs of the bike-sharing program.
Users will have the option to buy annual memberships or pay to check out the bikes on a weekly or daily basis. The docking stations will be in high-density areas, including near commuter rail stations.
"Bike Share makes it easy to hop on a bike and get places like that meeting across the loop, the store, or the train station," Ron Burke, executive director of the Chicago-based Active Transportation Alliance, told Dave Schlabowske at the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. "This is a game-changing improvement to Chicago's transportation network."
Chicagonow.com blogger Brent Cohrs said putting more people on bikes on city streets should result in increased safety for everyone.
"From roughly April to November, we can expect to see an additional one half million people making trips by bike if we experience the level of participation recorded by Minneapolis in its first year. Another 500,000 bike trips is bound to increase bicycle visibility and remind more motorists of their responsibility to share the road," Cohrs wrote.
Alta Bicycle Share operates the Nice Ride Minnesota bike-share program in the Twin Cities as well as in Boston, London, Melbourne, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. The company is also starting a 10,000-bike, 600-station system in New York City this summer.
B-Cycle, the Trek-run program in effect in Madison, Wisconsin, lost its bid to expand in Chicago. in 2010, B-Cycle installed six bike rental stations downtown and near Lake Michigan. B-Cycle operates it's largest bike-sharing program in Denver.
The Emanuel administration still must get city council approval for the program and will likely seek public input for the siting of the docking stations.
Bike and Roll Chicago, which has nine rental locations, will still be positioned to cater to families like ours, But on our next trip there, I expect the kids will want their own wheels. And on a tighter budget, it will be nice to have the bike share option.
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