City bike-share program could come to campus next spring

Minneapolis is looking to have a permanent bicycle-sharing program in the city by next spring, and if everything falls into place, the University of Minnesota could have bicycle stations on campus. The cityâÄôs plan is to have 1,000 new bicycles at 75 self-service kiosks located around the University, downtown and uptown by May 2009. For between $50 and $75 a year, bicyclists will be able to sign up for membership on the Internet, which allows them access to the bicycles for half-hour increments at no extra charge. Members can use a bicycle as many times as they want, as long as they return it to any kiosk within a half hour. After a half-hour, the member is charged, and the price gets progressively higher. Bill Dossett, a volunteer for the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation, which is working with the city to set up the program, said this charging system helps keep bicycles in circulation. âÄúYou donâÄôt want bikes locked up in front of an office building where no one would use them,âÄù he said. âÄúYou want to get them back into circulation.âÄù This encourages a high turnover rate in Paris, where a similar system is in place, Dossett said. First-time users can also check out a bicycle with a credit card at the kiosks for about $5 a day. Dossett said the program is not for people who already commute downtown, but is targeting people who may cycle but donâÄôt see it as a mode of transportation. âÄúItâÄôs a cultural change,âÄù he said, adding that this program could help change a cycle of dependence on cars in our society. However, the project needs funding to get off the ground. The staff at the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation has been working with the city since this summer to develop a nonprofit business model for the bicycle-sharing program. Dossett said they need $3 million to start the program, and are currently working on getting local and federal subsidies, as well as private corporate sponsorship. After the $3 million is obtained, Dossett said he believes the nonprofit can operate the program from the bicycle-share revenues and ongoing sponsorship. Mary Sienko, spokeswoman for the UniversityâÄôs Parking and Transportation Services, said she is meeting with Dossett Tuesday to discuss the future of the program on campus. Sienko said specifics, such as kiosk locations, arenâÄôt set in stone, nor is a partnership between the University and the program. However, she said chances of a partnership are good. âÄúWhat we always look at is giving people another choice, especially if that choice gets them out of a singly driven car,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs just a matter of looking at it and seeing if it will work here.âÄù Donald Pflaum, bicycle coordinator for the city, said the bicycle-sharing program set up by Humana and Bikes Belong at the Republican National Convention was a model for how this program could work. âÄúThis program could have widespread use and benefit the University greatly,âÄù Pflaum said. âÄúBut we have to get it off the ground and get it done right.âÄù