The concept of this is pretty interesting and I think there is a chance that a creative model could be built and established in downtown. Montreal’s Public Bike System is like a bicycle rental service with several stations around the city. You can pay the rental fee at each station, pick an available bike, and use it for as long as you want. When you are finished, you simply return the bike to any station. The bikes can be tracked and a website will have live information such as station locations and number of available bikes and docks.
A system like this could work for downtown Raleigh. Cabs are quick and easy but hard to find unless it is a weekend night on Glenwood. A rickshaw ride is a cool experience but they cannot cover everyone that needs to get around. When the trolleys get rolling in the near future, you are limited to its schedule and destinations along the route. The bike stations are permanent and as long as bikes are available, you can use them at any time of the day or night. Stations should be set up near hotels for visitors to use and riding around downtown would give them the opportunity to see more of the city. Bikes also make it possible for visitors to go outside of downtown, like Five Points, Fletcher Park, Cameron Village, Dorothea Dix Park, and spots along Hillsborough St.
The only negatives I can think of are theft and support. The bikes are tracked with RFID tags so locating them is not a problem. But if someone with some skill figures out how to hack the bikes, say goodbye to them. Plus, even with the ability to retrieve the bikes, if theft is a real problem, policing them may be a hassle. I also think that this system needs to be marketed well because it caters more to visitors. This system could actually make the walking tour more popular because biking the tour would appeal to more people. Of course, you cannot rule out the green factor as all the stations are solar powered; a concept the city is already familiar with. It comes down to pure numbers, will enough people use it?