Cedar Rapids is kicking off its first bike share program today, coinciding with Bike to Work Week, a national push to encourage cycling. Supporters hope the service will make Cedar Rapids more accessible and attractive to residents and and visitors.
When it’s fully up and running later this summer, some 150 electric bikes will dot the city across 90 parking stations. They’ll be available for rent in Cedar Rapids’ downtown, and the neighborhoods of New Bohemia, Kingston Village, Czech Village and the Med Quarter.
Advocates say the service will make it easier to run errands, grab lunch or get to work, all without having to use a car. Bill Micheel is the city’s Assistant Director for Community Development and Planning.
“It gives another mobility option. As we become more bicycle-friendly as a community, as we become more walkable as a community, these types of amenities really make a big difference in how attractive our community is as well.”
Micheel says the program will complement other investments the city has been making, including adding bike lanes and converting one way streets back into two ways. These changes can fill in public transportation gaps and give more people more ways to get out and about in the city, and that can improve quality of life, Micheel said.
“Regions and cities compete with one another for not only jobs, but for people, for talent. This is one of those things, along with the investments we’ve been making in the trail system, that makes us more attractive.”
The bike share will be administered by the company VeoRide, which manages programs across the country. VeoRide will be responsible for upkeep and any repairs or replacements of the bikes, at no cost to the City.
Riders can rent a bike by downloading the company's app and setting up an online account. The cost of travel is $1 to unlock the bike, and 15 cents for each minute. It would cost about $2 to ride from the convention center in downtown Cedar Rapids to NewBo, some ten blocks away.
The City will also be adding 30 electric scooters to the fleet later this summer, as part of a pilot project to test if the approach works in Cedar Rapids. Residents in other cities have reported riders are more careless when returning scooters, turning them into something of a nuisance.
As Cedar Rapids has developed its own bike share program, Micheel said the City has received positive feedback and sponsorship support for the project from local businesses and community leaders. Micheel says resturants and shops in the city's core neighborhoods could see more foot traffic as a result of the bike share.
In an interview with Iowa Public Radio last month, local urban design advocate Benjamin Kaplan of the blog Corridor Urbanism said he expects the program can make it easier and more enjoyable to spend time downtown.
"If you are in the Alliant Tower and you want lunch at the NewBo City Market, it's too far to walk. It's too much of a hassle to go get your car. But if you can just hop on your bike, and you can hop on a bike that's only gonna cost you a couple bucks..." he said. "That's a dramatic change in how downtown will function. That's exciting."
The city is hosting an official ribbon cutting launch event on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Green Square in downtown Cedar Rapids. Staffers from the city and the bike share company will be providing demonstrations, and a limited supply of free bike helmets will be given out to those who need them.