Charleston leaders affirmed their support for a city-backed bike-share plan earlier this month. City Council members unanimously approved an initial program that, once fully realized, could offer tourists as well as residents a reliable transportation alternative.
According to Jacob Lindsey with the city’s planning department, the bike-share program will be revenue neutral for the city — paid for entirely by corporate sponsors and user fees — and operated by Charleston-based company The Gotcha Group.
“This is a very high-tech, cutting edge bike-share system that has learned from the best systems in D.C. and New York,” Lindsey told members of City Council earlier this month. “This is the best in class and it is run by a locally located company, which we think is great. They provide services to other cities and campuses across the country, but they are here in Charleston. We selected them in part because if we have a problem, we can call them up and they are here.”
Once finalized, the initial bike-share agreement will include seven bicycle stations located around the city. Lindsey said the city is not liable for any accidents that may occur with those utilizing the service. The exact location of the bike-share stations will need to receive final approval from the city’s Design Review Committee, which assesses any city-funded project that involves the alteration city streets, sidewalks, parking lots, park playgrounds, open spaces, or any other city-owned or operated property. These stations will not be permanently affixed to the ground and can be moved if necessary.
Councilman Mike Seekings, chair of the city’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, said that efforts to establish a bike-share program in Charleston have been in the works for almost three years. For Seekings, the GPS-based bike-share system could offer valuable insight into the traffic patterns of Charleston’s biking community.
“All the information from the GPS — that includes who is using the bikes, where they’re going and the like — will be shared with the city,” said Seekings. “So effectively at no cost to us, we’re going to have an amenity on the streets that the people of Charleston want, tourists will use, and will provide us our own traffic study for bike patterns, which is fantastic.”
Downtown bike shop Affordabike has long offered rental options at its King Street location, but the company has recently launched their own program offering bikes at remote rental stations around town. According to Affordabike owner Daniel Russell-Einhorn, the company has 60 bikes at 14 stations at hotels and short-term rental properties around town, but that number is growing, and they are actively seeking more locations to gear up for spring.
Bikes rented from the Gotcha Bike system can be returned to any one of the stations positioned around the city, according to Lindsey, and the location of each bike can be monitored remotely. Before voting in favor of the plan, Mayor John Tecklenburg spoke to the members of City Council regarding the benefits he believes the program offers for those living in Charleston.
“No. 1, I like the price. No cost to the city. That’s excellent. In addition to being a local company, Gotcha makes the bicycles here, so we wish them a lot of success on their business in other cities because they are employing folks in the city of Charleston to put these bicycles together and they certainly seem to be a quality product,” said Tecklenburg. “One of the reasons why I think it will be beneficial to residents in many ways moreso than tourists is that in addition to billing by the hour, they will allow you to buy annual license or use fee that a local person can use at a lesser rate than a visitor who may use it for three hours and then they’re done.”