Photo Source: al.com
Bike lovers across Birmingham are rejoicing as the city moves closer to implementing a bike share program in the downtown area.
Note: For more current updates, please see REV, City of Birmingham and RPCGB Announce Fall 2015 BikeShare Launch
As efforts toward the revitalization and development of Birmingham continue to move forward, some locals have criticized city planners for restrictions on cycling. In fact, Bicycling Magazine named Birmingham as one of the worst cities for cycling in 2010 – an award that city officials are likely eager to part with. After three years of deliberation, the Birmingham Bike Share program is closer than ever to becoming a reality.
A bike share system is made up of rental kiosks centrally located around the city, storing bikes available for rent and return at the swipe of a debit or credit card. According to www.birminghambikeshare.com, Bikeshare is “ideal for short distance point-to-point trips, providing subscribers access to bicycles at self-serve stations within the system’s service area.”
The benefits of bike sharing are multi-faceted, from reducing road congestion and parking issues, to obvious health benefits. Bike sharing also relieves pressure on the transit system, generates income for the city, and reduces harmful auto emissions. Companies like Alabama Power have already created a bike share system for their employees in Birmingham, making it easier for them to quickly run errands or grab lunch in crowded downtown. The employee feedback has been largely positive, and city administrators are quickly taking a cue from their progress.
In many cities where bike sharing systems have been implemented, the cost of renting is comparable to a cup of a coffee each day. Based on established systems, we can expect to see rates from $5 to $10 for daily rentals, with options for full year memberships for $50 to $100. In some cases, members even get the first 30-60 minute ride free of charge.
While the typical bike renter might use the system to commute to work or grab lunch, tourists can also rent them for the duration of their visit to the Magic City. This saves money on car rentals and public parking fees, and allows visitors to enjoy the city in a way uncomparable to driving through it. With quality, name-brand bicycles ranging from $100 to upwards of $400, bike sharing offers a solution that is both convenient and easy on your wallet. It also provides bike riders a safe storage solution and reduces the risk of bike theft.
In January, city officials met with potential bike vendors for the program. According to AL.com, the proposed vendor candidates are B Cycle, Nextbike, Bewegen and PBSC. If a vendor is agreed upon, the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPCGB) will continue the process of securing grants for the program. In addition to the RPCGB’s input, the chosen vendor must be approved by the Alabama Department of Transportation, and the kiosk aesthetic must pass standards set by the Birmingham City Design Board.
Thanks to the virtual map on the Birmingham Bikeshare website, hundreds of residents have begun suggesting station locations. According to the Regional Planning Committee of Greater Birmingham, a recent Feasibility Survey showed that Birmingham could support 300 to 400 bicycles at 30 to 40 bikeshare stations across the downtown area. To suggest a location, or for more information on the bikeshare program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.