Richmond could launch bike share program in 2015

Posted at 7:43 PM, Dec 17, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond City Council is considering a bike-share program that would allow individuals to rent city bicycles.

It's the same type of program available in big cities both internationally and nationally.

The initial $1.3 million cost will put 300 bikes on city streets and create 30 docking stations. The broad picture goal is to have such a program in place by the time the Richmond 2015 UCI Road World Championships come to Richmond in September.

"Visually it's going to be a big statement to have bikes on the street that are there for public use for a small fee, I think that's going to be a big impact,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, with Sportsbackers.

If approved the bicycles and rental system will be hi-tech, said Jakob Helmboldt, with the City of Richmond.

"You can access it via smartphone, via web portal, check out a bike, turn it back in, it's got GPS, it's got running lights -- front and rear, all the time -- multi-geared,” Helmboldt said.

But are city streets and drivers in Richmond really ready to share the road with hundreds of bikers?

"I’ve been hit several times, knocked off my bike, brushed over and it seems there is not a lot of concern for the cyclists,” said cyclist Alan Hartmann. “But that was out in the county, now that I’m here in the city, it's a lot easier and it seems to be a lot more people paying attention."

Some who've been cycling Richmond city streets for years say it's getting safer.

"I feel like it has been like a huge improvement,” said Byron Gonzalez.

Louis Scheer, who runs Molly’s Bicycle Shop in Chester, likes the bike share idea but said it has failed in other cities.

“A lot of bikes sat there because the maintenance behind them or on them fell behind and I’ve been to places where they're on top of it, they're moving bikes around, putting them in more populated areas and stuff like that,” Scheer said, who lived in San Diego, where they host a successful Bike Share Program.

The city said if the plan is approved, the bikes will be practical, durable and theft resistant.

The bike share program, if it passes all remaining hurdles, will receive 80-percent federal and state funds and 20-percent city budget funds.