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Toledo eyes bike sharing

Metroparks wants grant to bring stations to city

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    A bicyclist rides on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge in Toledo.

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    Student government president Cody Spoon and vice president Ian Michalakat pose for a portrait next to the bike share bicycles at the University of Toledo. Last October the university launched a new bike sharing program for students called "Rocket Wheels."

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    The Metroparks of the Toledo Area is applying for a grant to start a bike-share program in the city. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority would share in bike maintenance.

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    Jim Gee, TARTA general manager

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Toledo could soon be joining the growing list of U.S. cities pushing pedal power on city streets.

Metroparks of the Toledo Area is leading a private-public initiative to get a bike-share program in the city’s urban core that would begin with 100 bicycles and 17 docking stations.

The park district is applying for a grant to receive federal money through the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments to fund about 80 percent of the bike-share program’s estimated $330,000 startup cost.

Dave Zenk, Metroparks deputy director, said details would need to be worked out but the proposed bike-share program would involve the Metroparks using the grant for buying bikes, docking stations, kiosks, and other equipment to get the program up and running.

The Downtown Toledo Improvement District and the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority would share in maintaining the bikes and inventory and administration of the program. Ongoing costs to operate the bike share would come through user fees and private sector memberships, he said.

“Over 30 agencies and corporations expressed support and willingness to help in bike share for the downtown area. There is really strong support for this. They essentially raised their hands and said they recognize this is a good thing, and they want to see it succeed,” Mr. Zenk said.

Support has been promised by ProMedica, Fifth Third Bank, HCR ManorCare, Owens Corning, Hylant, SSOE Group, the Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye, Huntington Center, Imagination Station, The Blade, Toledo Museum of Art, Valentine Theatre, Toledo School for the Arts, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, Lucas County Commissioners, Toledo Arts Commission, Toledo Public Schools, University of Toledo, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Regional Growth Partnership, and Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Also, ProMedica and the Mud Hens are committed for corporate sponsorship of the program, according to the park’s grant application.

Bike-share programs have caught on in major cities. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton have launched them in the last several years. They promise more lively downtowns and a way to energize street life. Added benefits are improving health through exercise and cutting down on tailpipe emissions.

“We are looking quality-of-life enhancement as well as transportation enhancement as the downtown area continues to grow in residential population and the activities that are occurring there. Additional transportation will be needed. That is why we are doing this,” Mr. Zenk said.

The bikes being considered are step-through and low-slung and equipped with tires tough and wide enough to handle pot holes and rough pavement.

Mr. Zenk said the bicycles the Metroparks would like to buy can be individually tracked through GPS technology, equipped with anti-theft devices, and can be docked at any existing bike rack, which expands the bike-share network.

Bike shares typically work like this: A user swipes a credit card or a membership card at a secure bike-docking station or rack to release it for a short trip around downtown or neighborhood. Some systems allow users to find and reserve bikes on a computer or mobile device. They then enter their PIN-code to unlock the bike.

If the grant request is approved, bikes would be ordered next August and park staff would work through the winter to have the bike share launched in March, 2018.

The Metroparks’ proposed bike share is modeled after a similar program in Dayton that began in May, 2014. That city’s bike share, called Link, reported about 50,000 trips since it began with more than 7,000 users in the system riding more than 120,000 miles.

Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority maintains the bikes and Bike Miami Valley, a nonprofit bicycling advocacy group, is the program’s administrator.

“Overall, we are pleased with the numbers. We would always like to see more,” said Chris Buck, Link business development manager.

Link offers single-day memberships of $5, monthly memberships for $10, and one year memberships for $65. There is no usage fees for checking out a bike for less than 30 minutes, but members are charged $3 per half hour for trips over 30 minutes in length.

Jim Gee, TARTA general manager, said the bus transit is committed to maintaining the bikes and moving around the inventory to assure docks stations have bikes.

“It is really logical for TARTA to be part of the discussion,” he said. “I think it is a good project for Toledo. I think it is another tool we can use to attract and retain younger people in our community.”

TARTA began equipping its bus fleet with front racks to haul bikes in 2000. Last year, the transit system counted 17,000 trips by users with bicycles. It also is moving to using racks to hold three bikes rather than two as new buses are fitted for the fleet.

“When we put the bike racks on the buses I was expecting an audience of recreational bicycle users. Instead, it is primarily workers who are using the bike to bus connection to get to jobs at locations that are distances from bus stops. Also, surprisingly, it is year round usage, not just seasonable uses.”

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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