Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bike Share program for Burlington / Champlain College?

A man returns a BIXI-bike to a sidewalk-mounted docking station Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2010, in Montreal.
Montreal’s Bixi bike-share system combines real-time availability information and online payment options with sturdy, virtually theft-proof rental bicycles.
Other large cities — including London and Washington, launched licensed versions of the system this year. Could it work in a city ofBurlington’s dimensions?
Yes, in theory, replied Kevin Grant, program director for North American operations of Lachine, Quebec-based Public Bike System (Bixi’s parent company), when quizzed by a contingent of visiting Vermonters.
In practice?
Nicole Losch, bicycle/pedestrian planner with Burlington’s Public Works Department, said an upgrade of velo-centric infrastructure would have to come first.
At last week’s launch of 10 new downtown bike lockers, Losch said the city has made significant progress in assuring bicycles a safeplace on downtown streets. Burlington, she added, has detailed plans — but not the money — for more bike-only lanes of the sort that spurred Montrealers to embrace the Bixi.
Montreal enjoys other advantages over Burlington:
• A larger tax base (2 million inhabitants versus 38,000) and a tighter population density.
• The ability to collect revenues from rental kiosk-mounted advertising.
• A downtown district blessed with fewer hills than Burlington’s lakeside slope (although electric-assist bikes have a demonstrated utility here).
Yet the recent fact-finding mission by Burlington bike advocates to Montreal prompted, on the whole, cautious optimism. Among their responses:

Christina Erickson
Sustainability director at Champlain College:

“This would have to work in tandem with increasing bike infrastructure and education — building a culture of bicycling on campus and in the community,” she said. “I have heard from some students that they are afraid of biking around town because of the lack of bike lanes. As someone who often commutes by bike (the rest by foot) I know there are certain challenges to overcome — educating both cyclists and drivers on right of way, etiquette, etc.
“But it makes sense to me that Champlain would be a partner in this project,” she added. “I am a believer that we need both infrastructure and educational outreach to see the desired behaviors. If there are no bike racks, there’ll be no bikes. If there are no bike lanes, there’ll be people seeking creative (and sometimes dangerous) pathways.”

Jamie Seiffer
Burlington Bicycle Coalition:

“I was impressed by how the system was customized to suit the city,” he said. “But scaling a system like that down to fit Burlington would be our primary challenge. If you start small, with, say, 10 bikes at the UVM campus, they’re all going to end up downhill.
“Downtown Burlington is so small; it’s already walkable,” Seiffer continued. “Connectivity with outlying communities — and Waterbury and Montpelier — is already giving transportation planners a lot of surveying to do. And we need a better public transit corridor between Montreal and Boston. People want to be connected.”

Chapin Spencer
Director of Local Motion:

“In my mind, Bixi is like a ‘teaser’ — we know that it’s not going to happen here anytime soon,” he said. “We need to do some on-the-ground improvements first. So let’s start.”
Local Motion is under contract with the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization to conduct a feasibility study for bike transit — due out at the end of the year,” he added. “We know that one transportation mode is not going to solve every need. We’re soliciting comments about what might work, and what won’t. We want to hear about it, the good, the bad and the ugly.”

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