It may not be long before Hoboken and Jersey City residents can rent bikes docked at transport stations for quick trips around town to visit local parks and restaurants or to commute to and from work. Both cities are currently soliciting feedback in a study led by Hudson County planners to gauge interest in a bike share program.
If enough survey respondents demonstrate there is a need for bike sharing then it will aid the county in attracting vendors to operate the program and corporate sponsors to help pay for it. Hoboken is the lead city in a Request for Proposals in progress while Jersey City is sought as the second partner.
“One of the major impediments to using bikes is that [residents] have nowhere to keep them or live in a fourth floor walkup.” – Ian Sacs
“Hoboken is fully committed to being the first city in the county to implement the [bike share] program,” said Ian Sacs, Hoboken transportation and parking director. “We will demonstrate to neighboring municipalities that the program could spread to their cities as well so that they will see the benefits of reducing traffic, reducing parking, and improving the overall quality of life of their residents.”
Alleviating parking problems
Hoboken has taken steps forward to create a more bike-friendly city by designating bike lanes on city streets, but would like to see more residents on bikes to help curb the parking problem.
“One of the major impediments to using bikes is that [residents] have nowhere to keep them or live in a fourth floor walkup or don’t feel comfortable leaving bikes on streets,” Sacs said.
Bike share systems set up docks at locations including train and bus stations. Riders can sign up for the day or pay for a monthly or annual membership. With a key that unlocks a bike, riders get the first 30 minutes free then pay per each additional half hour.
Washington D.C. charges $7 for the day, $25 for a one-month membership, and $75 for an annual membership.
Sacs said the bikes have to be tough to endure on city streets and are not the kind of bicycle that anyone would want to steal.
“They are utilitarian bikes,” said Sacs. “They are not going to be high-speed racing bikes [or] ultra-light mountain bikes.”
“I fully support it. It would be a very effective program for an area like Hoboken,” said Josh Meyers, co-founder of a group called Bike Hoboken. He founded Bike Hoboken in August 2010. The group has 600 to 700 members.
Meyers sent the bike share study to Bike Hoboken’s membership. “There are a lot of people that feel strongly about bike sharing,” said Meyers.
“We would like to see bike sharing connected to all municipalities…but there has to be a need for it,” said Jay DiDomenico, director of Hudson Transportation Management Association (TMA). “One by one, as this becomes successful, more municipalities will join.”
The Hudson TMA hopes Jersey City becomes a partner in the bike-sharing RFP as the second municipality to launch a bike share program. They also envision partnering with New York City to offer cross-Hudson bike sharing.
Finding corporate sponsorship
“If we can find a way for bike sharing to exist and for it to not cost taxpayers money, then I think we have a win-win,” said DiDomenico.
Some cities have used federal funding to institute a bike share program while others have sought corporate sponsorship and a bike share vendor to take on the operational costs. Portland, Ore. in December proposed spending $4 million in flexible federal funding for their bike share program, which would put 740 bikes at 74 bike stations.
New York plans to launch its own program this summer and chose an Oregon company, Alta Bicycle Share, to operate a fleet of 10,000 bikes with 600 rental stations. The president of Alta Bicycle Share said last year that she was looking for $50 million in corporate sponsorships to run the New York City program. Hudson County will pursue a similar revenue model to NYC – the vendor makes a profit from membership fees and rentals and a corporate sponsor generates revenue from advertising.
Future federal funding at risk
Hoboken has not been successful in the past in seeking federal funds to help fund bike initiatives, and legislation in the House could eliminate any future chances at federal funding. The House Republican leadership on Feb. 2 eliminated mandated federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects in a transportation bill. Supporters of eliminating the funds said it will give states greater flexibility in choosing how to spend their federal transportation money. A separate bill making its way through the Senate included funding for bike projects as optional for states.
“The bill that is currently in the house is a huge threat to the successes that the bicycling community has made over the past 20 years,” said Sacs. He said that he and Mayor Dawn Zimmer reached out to national representatives to voice their concerns.
“It’s not serving the nation’s future transportation needs with a comprehensive plan,” he said. “It is being shortsighted.”
To take the survey on the Hudson County Bike Share Program, visit: http://www.hudsontma.org/. The study will remain open until the planners collect up to 1,000 responses.
In the meantime, an unrelated program called “Hobiken” was started at Symposia Book Store on Washington Street in 2004 to allow people to rent bikes at a low cost outside the store. See hobiken.com for more information on that smaller program.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.