If Ride Solutions has its way by this spring people will be able to rent a bike in Grandin Village, downtown or at venues near the greenway. They could use a phone app to make the transaction happen and with a small annual membership fee they wouldn’t have to lay out any additional money for the rental in some cases. Introducing Roanoke Bikeshare, a program Ride Solutions is working to put in place with the help of a national company called Zagster.
Jeremy Holmes, program director for the Ride Solutions program that works to promote alternative modes of transportation, says Bikeshare is looking for local sponsors. He showed off the concept at the CoLab recently, hoping to drum up support from potential users, as well.
“Basically they are short term bike rentals with stations set up around the community,” says Holmes, “you can go to any station and check out a bike using your smart phone.” Rented bikes can be dropped off at another Bikeshare station or returned after a round-trip. “It’s a way to increase mobility and offer another transportation option.” Short term bike rentals would be free after the membership; past a certain length of time there would be an additional charge.
Holmes says the target date for Roanoke Bikeshare’s debut is April. He says the valley’s focus on outdoor amenities like the greenway system and the growth of residential develop downtown – as downtown pushes west also – makes the time right for a bike rental program, especially for residents who may not feel like climbing into their car for a short trip when they can get on a bike and get some exercise at the same time. “With the greenway network expanding it’s just really easy right now to get around on bicycle. I think [bikeshare] will make it easier for people to make that decision.”
Ride Solutions would manage Bikeshare and the bike fleet. The bikes themselves, the rental stations and the bike maintenance is where Zagster comes in. Right now Holmes says they are figuring out how many bicycles will be needed and where the rental kiosks should go and “what the system should look like.”
Getting people out of their vehicles – or at least into carpools – has been part of the mission for Holmes and Ride Solutions. As the number of bike lanes and shared use roadways grows, the Roanoke Valley’s reputation as a bike friendly area has grown as well. “I’m thrilled. I think it’s great for Roanoke and the Roanoke Valley. Something that makes us even more attractive.”
With so much of Roanoke’s economic development growth in recent years tied to outdoor branding – Deschutes Brewery said that was a big factor in locating its east coast operations here – having low cost bicycle rentals available in key spots will make it “even more of an attractive place to live, work and play,” says Holmes. Roanoke Bikeshare still needs “community partners” so Holmes will be looking to drum up support for it over the next few months, “to form some partnerships.” How much funding will be needed locally depends on how big the initial network winds up being. “We’re thrilled,” says Holmes, “we think people will really jump on this.”
By Gene Marrano