Council Discusses Bikeshare in Raleigh

Denver Bike Share Station by David McSpadden

During last week’s city council meeting, discussions about a possible bike share system in Raleigh took place. A presentation by Eric Lamb, the Transportation Planning Manager, took the council through a brief recap of what has been done so far, for the benefit of the newer council members, and where we stand today. The presentation and council discussion can be seen in the video below.

If the embedded video does not load for you, see it here.

No decision was made and the converation will continue at a March 15 work session.

The scenario we’re in includes an April 1, 2016 deadline to accept a federal grant. The council just needs to endorse accepting it as the grant is approved and ready to go. The grant would cover $1.6 million of the $2 million total cost to launch the proposed bike share system.

Covering the rest of the cost as well as annual maintenance could be covered by interested sponsors but that isn’t set in stone. This is where the council, with the exception of a minority of members, have expressed concern.

Councilors Thompson, Crowder, and Cox seem to be most concerned about operating costs and that accepting this grant puts the city on the hook for propping up the bike share system.

Crowder states “I don’t want the city to be in the bike business.” She used Seattle as an example where the local bike share system is asking for the City of Seattle to bail them out.

Councilor Gaylord stated that there was local interest to help sponsor the system. He’s worked to get this lined up and the totals from the private sector could be around $250,000 annually. The only companies that have publicly come out to support the bike share system were Citrix and Rex Healthcare.

The proposed system does not have station locations set yet but would include 30 stations between the neighborhoods around Downtown, NC State, and the NC Museum of Art. The recommended plan was done in 2014, before the Dix Park deal so reevaluating a few stations may take place.

For me, I’m torn with my support with bike share.

On one hand, I want Raleigh to roll out this 30 station system, no less. With 80% of the launch cost covered by a federal grant and a good portion of the operating cost covered by private companies, I feel it is worth investing in and seeing if it sticks.

There’s so much talk of transit going on right now and I disagree with Councilor Crowder’s statement. The city IS in the bike business only it’s called something different.

The city is in the mobility business. The city does have an interest in allowing people to move around our city in the healthiest, safest, easiest way possible. A bike share system today could expand in the future creating more trips that support sustainable neighborhoods and communities.

Then, the other side of me kicks in.

We do have quite a bit of projects going on. I want to see the city get Dix Park right. I want to see them get this Transit Referendum passed this year. I want to see Union Station become a great success. I want to see the expansion of the bicycle network. Aren’t these projects predecessors for a bike share system?

A part of me wants to see transit, the network, and downtown become a little more mature before we try this bike share.

In the end though, perhaps juggling even more projects at the same time is how a bigger city operates. The city did in fact pay a consultant that told us a bike share system in Raleigh is feasible. Plus, it is a recommended action item in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

I’d like to see us take that risk. If it doesn’t work, lesson learned and move on.

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  1. Learned that the Seattle bike share is financially insolvent and is in need of a 1.4 million dollar bailout to continue operations. I would be very curious to hear why their share program has struggled financially and if it is a sponsorship or ridership problem. Those in COR need to get on the phone and ask the same questions.

  2. It seem absurd that this still has this much resistance. Oh, what a surprise, Kay Crowder isn’t in favor of it, just like everything else that would improve downtown… It should be on the greenways, downtown, and all points nearby. Study the results for a year, and modify where needed.

  3. The ONLY way this works is for the stations to be closely clustered in DT, near high density housing, walkable areas and destinations. Stations could reach Cameron Village or NC State near the Bell Tower but anything further will make it fail. Believe me. I use the system in Miami Beach all the time and the close proximity of stations is what makes it work. If Raleigh spreads them out along the entire city, it will fail.
    As a DT resident, I already pay overlay taxes for services. Why can’t this be partially funded with this fee? In order for Raleigh to continue to leverage its outperforming real estate (meaning getting more property taxes), it needs to step up and give people a reason to pay more to be there. This cannot be an apples to apples discussion when it’s really an apples to oranges scenario.

  4. Bikeshare is definitely worth the investment, as transit, as recreation, and as a tool for economic development. The question should not be “if”, and its worries me a bit that some of the council members didn’t seem to fully understand the bikeshare concept. I am glad that the Council is looking closely at the cost to the city and trying not replicate mistakes made elsewhere.

  5. If we’re going to lose $1.6 worth of grants if we decline this….only to say that we want to wait a few years before we try this, then I’d say thats a mistake and shortsighted.

    C’mon Raleigh. Just do something risky and progressive for a change. If the city is so gung-ho about being the tech capital of the southeast then they better start thinking outside of the box and stop operating the way they have been.

  6. I’m with @Jeff, Kay Crowder is a major fun sheriff and seems to work against anything interesting proposed for downtown.

  7. I agree that the bikeshare only works in dense locations like downtown. Don’t spread it over the city, with maybe the exception of greenway entryways. The future greenway expansion into downtown will be tremendously helpful for a bikeshare program.

  8. The city needs to realize that a bike share is not frivolous but rather an infrastructure investment in allowing the city center to grow and generate more tax revenues. There’s a thread on this topic on the Triangle’s city-data forum. For some reason, the person who started that thread tagged me in the original post. I have no idea who that is and he/she thought I’d be interested in the topic. In any case, go participate in that discussion there if you like. It starts here:

  9. @Bob.
    As glamorous as that project in N. Miami looks, consider that it’s behind a row of strip shopping including a Costco. I shop there all the time and the area is meh. Renderings sure make things look “purtty”.
    I’d love to find a way to bring water into DT Raleigh, whether opening up a creek in Glenwood South or finding a way to integrate a small urban pond into a larger project but I’m just not sure that there’s enough land in DT proper to make that latter feasible.

  10. It doesn’t matter where that rendering is located in some other city. Raleigh has nothing but space. I propose Southeast downtown ;-)

  11. Pigeon Branch can be followed into Glenwood South and running parallel to the south of Peace street. It opens at Boylan ave after running under the 510 Glenwood and Glenwood Towers properties. If Glenwood Towers were to be redeveloped, the creek could open up through the property and provide an east/west water feature through the middle of it. It could be quite nice. When it crosses Boylan, it essentially is an open creek that runs behind the 712 Tucker apartments. Unfortunately, the possibility of celebrating that creek is all but wasted between Boylan and St. Mary’s. Within the northern edge of Cameron Park, the creek makes a rather nice water feature behind the homes on both Peace and Johnson Streets.

  12. There is discussion to turn the old city garage & maintenance facility into a “river walk” as part of efforts to improve Pigeon House Branch.. Pigeon House Creek runs as John stated under Glenwood Towers(tear down please) and under 510 then runs up to Cameron Village along Smallwood. There is discussion to improve it from Peace all the way to Crabtree Creek. Greenway and riverwalk even if the water flow has to be supplemented as part of improvements to the creek. Hopefully not far away as Peace Street/Capital Blvd changes begin. Can you see restaurants on West St overlooking riverwalk former garage?

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