Benefits of bike sharing
Before investing in a bicycle, it makes sense for people to see how biking works out for them. Do they feel safe? Can they get where they need to go? Will they actually use it?
So a new bike share program at the College of Charleston could be just what a bike-friendly community needs.
The program will allow students, faculty and staff to check out bikes free from the Stern Center beginning this month when classes start.
It will initially involve only eight bicycles, which people can use for a day. College officials say it would be easy to grow the program if it works as hoped.
The more successful it is, the better for the community. Cities and campuses across the country — and, indeed, around the world — are encouraging people to leave their cars behind and use bikes. It’s good for their health, good for the environment, good for relieving congestion and good for saving money.
So it’s no surprise that the city of Charleston has received requests from members of the community to arrange for a bike share program.
And Mount Pleasant, which is striving to become a community better connected by biking and pedestrian paths, is another good fit for bike sharing.
Mount Pleasant Town Council’s Public Services Committee has recommended that the town administrator look into private companies and nonprofits that might help establish a program there. Charleston’s Tim Keane, director of planning, preservation and sustainability, said it is likely the city will proceed with its own program soon.
New York City recently rolled out a bike share program, which allows people to rent a bicycle for a small fee. If it can happen in a city known for vehicular traffic and pedestrian congestion, surely a program can be designed for the Lowcountry. It might be handled by a private company or nonprofit under contract with local government.
But planners should consider the voices of people like Erik Engstrom, who Robert Behre reported is concerned that a bike share program could cut into his business, which includes bike rentals as well as sales.
Stephanie Hunt, who chairs the local pro-bicycling nonprofit Charleston Moves, said other cities have found those who rent from shops are a different group of people than those who use bike share programs. Also, she said, expanding the biking community ultimately should benefit bike shops.
Bike share program planning should include safety measures and education. Bicycling is increasing in Charleston and Mount Pleasant, but both places face challenges as they look for ways to provide bike lanes and paths for safe travel.
And both motorists and bicyclists are still struggling to co-exist safely on roads, streets and bridges. They need to be educated about safety, and they need to be policed.
Local bike share programs could provide some attractive alternatives: biking instead of dieting to get healthier; biking instead of road construction to address traffic; and biking instead of buying gas to help the budget.
They’re worth a try, and the College of Charleston is a good place to begin.