COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The City of Columbia held a press conference to discuss the Bike Share Pre-Launch and Lead Sponsor Unveiling.
The new announcement comes after a partnership with Canadian-based bike share company Bewegen Technology. City officials say they took the contract with Bewegen to the city council in March.
The bike share programs exist in cities across the country. They allow people to rent a bicycle and ride for a specific amount of time.
The city said the Bike Share Program is an important component of the Walk/Bike Columbia plan, and the announcement is a milestone in the effort to become a healthier and more connected city.
Mayor Benjamin said "If we're indeed going to be a 21st-century city, you have got to focus on being a more multi-modal city. A lot of people that get around not just by cars but also by bikes, by bus, by being a pedestrian-friendly city and that takes sometimes baby steps and every once in a while you get a chance to take a big leap, this is a big leap forward."
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has been announced as the lead sponsor for the new bike share initiative, which is called Blue Bike.
The Blue Bike share system is structured to operate like automated bike rentals for short periods.
The structure encourages shorter, spontaneous trips where bikes are checked out, ridden for a short period of time and returned to any station in the system for someone else to use.
"This is going to be a positive thing for society as we not only get to places more efficiently and have a better time doing it and a better mental state when you get there, it's also good for your health." Emile DeFelice, a cyclist who attended the press conference said. "It's going to make things a lot more efficient. It just doesn't make sense for a two or three thousand pound piece of working machinery to transport a person one mile or two, it just doesn't add up."
The system consists of a fleet of user-friendly and hardy bikes placed at conveniently located stations.
Bikes will be a blend of traditional bikes combined with Pedelec (electric assist) bikes, allowing and encouraging use of all skill levels.
Approximately thirty-five percent of bikes will have an electric assist to allow users to access the community with ease.
The program will be split into two phases.
Phase one will include 15 stations, placed in different areas throughout the city.
Initially, there are plans to have 135 bicycles in the city, 50 of which will be pedelec bicycles.
City officials in the planning and development department say phase two will consist of 10 additional stations and 90 additional bicycles.
The city said the bike share provides a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly and convenient travel option for many short trips.
"Bike share is a relatively inexpensive and quick infrastructure extension to a city's public transportation system, allowing it to serve as a convenient 'last mile' connector and function as 'transit by bike'." City of Columbia said.
While the city is excited about this project, they also want riders to be safe.
"It's going to take everyone working together to focus on safety. It's going to require obviously aggressive public education but it's also going to take a great deal of personal responsibility on behalf of cyclists and drivers." Mayor Benjamin said. "We've got to share the roads. It's a constant education process it's not easy anywhere in the world and certainly that much more difficult in the American south but it's going to take some shared responsibility."
With this project, the city plans to improve bike infrastructure along with utilizing bike-friendly routes, but the city says it's imperative to learn to share the road.
BPAC will also provide bicycle education in efforts to keep cyclists safe.
To rent a bike, a single-trip is $2, a day pass is $6 or you can pay-as-you-go for $5.
All rides are 45 minutes. If you want to ride longer than 45 minutes it's $2 for each additional half hour.
You can purchase a pass online (www.bluebikessc.com) or you can pay on an app through your smartphone.
The city plans to launch the Blue Bike program by the end of September 2018.