People who want to ride a bike to work in Charlotte, or just run a quick errand, will soon be able to rent a cycle from one of 20 stations in and around uptown.
Charlotte Center City Partners is expected to formally unveil Charlotte B-Cycle, which they say is the states first bike-sharing program, at an event Thursday. The first stations have been installed uptown at Trade and Tryon streets and outside 7th Street Public Market.
After a free trial run through Sunday, the effort will formally debut in late July or early August.
Under the program, 200 bicycles will be available to rent at stations clustered mostly uptown and in SouthEnd. Adults can buy either a daily or year-long membership, and the first 30 minutes of every ride are free. After that, it costs $4 per half-hour. Multiple rentals are allowed each day, and bikes can be returned to any of the 20 stations.
The program, which will cost about $300,000 to $400,000 annually to operate, is privately funded, with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina signing on as the primary sponsor. Carolinas HealthCare System and Verizon also have signed on as sponsors. The city and county worked on the initial planning for the initiative.
Weldon Weaver, board chair for the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance, said hes thrilled the city is launching a bike-share program.
This is just going to make it convenient, Weaver said. You dont have to own the bike. You dont have to maintain it. Its just there for you.
Charlotte joins a dozen other cities that are part of the Wisconsin-based B-Cycle network. Spartanburg, S.C., launched its bike-share last year.
Locally, cyclists, city leaders and other advocates have long looked for ways to make the city more friendly to bikes. Center City Partners 2020 Vision Plan calls for creating a True City of Bikes, with a bike-share, more bike pathways and other amenities.
Michael Smith, president of Center City Partners, said bike-shares promote health and wellness and enhance other transportation options in the city.
The 20 stations are located near bus, shuttle and light-rail stops, and the future streetcar. In addition to spots in uptown and SouthEnd, stations also will be built at Carolinas Medical Center-Main, Presbyterian Hospital and Johnson C. Smith University.
The bikes weigh about 45 pounds, with baskets on the front. Other features include disc brakes, adjustable seats and covered chains. Each bike also will have GPS tracker.
Riders will need to use a debit or credit card to rent bikes, and users also will need to sign liability waivers. Daily memberships will cost $8 and annual fees are $65. BlueCross BlueShield members can get annual memberships for $50, and others can get $5 off by signing up before the end of July.
Official hope the bike-share program will appeal to people from all backgrounds, from current cyclists to others who may want to start riding. They declined to give estimates on how many people who might use the service. Our goal is to reach out to everybody, says Dianna Ward, executive director of Charlotte B-Cycle.
Part of a broader program
Blue Cross Blue Shields investment with the local bike-sharing program is part of a broader $4 million initiative the health insurer plans to announce Thursday. The Get Outside North Carolina!, or GO NC!, effort also will include initial projects in Raleigh and Wilmington, said Ellison Clary, the companys director of Charlotte community relations.
He said the projects are designed to encourage more people to be active outdoors, noting that about 30 percent of the states adults and 18 percent of N.C. children are obese or at risk of becoming obese.
In Charlotte, people will be able to test the bike-share for free through Sunday at two kiosks that have been installed at the Square and at 7th Street Public Market.
Those sites will then go off line for at least a couple weeks while officials work to get other stations ready.