Imagine borrowing a bicycle to pedal around La Crosse, with a simple swipe of a credit card.
The city, La Crosse Area Family YMCA and several private partners want a feasibility study done to see whether a bike-share service would be a good fit for La Crosse.
Such programs already are in place in Madison and Minneapolis; Chicago is expected to launch its version this summer.
They offer bikes locked into docking stations at key locations throughout the cities. Those wanting to take out a bike in Madison, for example, can purchase a 24-hour pass at the station for $5 or annual membership online for $65.
Each bike can be used for up to 30 minutes — a limit intended to promote sharing — but those with a pass can simply check out another bike without additional charge, according to the Madison B-cycle website.
“Bike sharing makes it economical and convenient to use bikes for trips that are too far to walk but too short to drive,” according to B-cycle, a division of Waterloo, Wis.-based Trek Bicycle Corp. “As a member, you can use a B-cycle to run an errand, grab lunch, travel from the bus stop to your office, or just get some fresh air and exercise.”
It sounded like a promising way to get people more active, said Jill Miller, coordinator of the YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative, which first raised the idea.
“The (initiative’s) vision statement is to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Miller said.
Bike-share programs first emerged in Europe and have been “exploding all over the globe,” she said. She’s seen it in action in Denver and Minneapolis.
But they tend to be in larger metropolitan areas, as an alternative to having to bring a vehicle downtown, where parking and traffic congestion can be more of a problem.
As a smaller metro area, La Crosse’s focus might be tourism and outdoor recreation as much as workers in the downtown area, Miller said.
Hence the need for a feasibility study that “takes it to the next level,” city Planner Larry Kirch said.
La Crosse’s version of a bike-share plan might be more like that of Spartanburg, S.C., a smaller college town similar to La Crosse that has had a B-cycle program since June 2011, Kirch said.
The $10,000 feasibility study would be funded with a $5,000 donation from the La Crosse Area Planning Committee, combined with $1,000 each from Gundersen Lutheran, Mayo Clinic Health Systems, YMCA and Logistics Health Inc. Others contributing include $500 from the La Crosse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, $300 from the city Planning Department budget and $200 from 360 Real Estate Solutions.
The city’s Board of Public Works and Plan Commission both unanimously recommended the study Monday. It next comes before the Finance and Personnel Committee on Thursday.
If approved by the full council May 9, the study would be done by the end of the year, ideally by the end of the summer, Miller said.