Providence solicits proposals for public bike share system

Providence is set to dive into the increasingly popular though still controversial world of bike share. More

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Providence solicits proposals for public bike share system

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/VICTOR J. BLUE
RIDERS TRY OUT the New York City bicycle sharing program in May 2013. The city of Providence this week began soliciting proposals for a similar system for neighborhoods including Downcity, College Hill and Federal Hill.
Posted 9/18/13

PROVIDENCE – Providence is set to dive into the increasingly popular though still controversial world of bike share.

The city this week began soliciting bids from vendors to run a public bicycle sharing system starting in its busiest neighborhoods and eventually spreading outward.

According to the terms of a request for proposals, the system would establish a network of stations where people can rent and return a bicycle. The rentals can be paid for at a station kiosk or by registering online.

“I think Providence is a great biking city and it is incumbent to think about transport in multiple ways beyond automobile traffic,” said Providence Deputy Director of Policy Toby Shepherd about bike share. “I think it touches on healthy lifestyles, transportation and reducing congestion. The benefits are numerable.”

Providence has been exploring bike share for a few years, and in May 2011 consultants Alta Planning and Design completed a feasibility study that suggested a system was possible, but challenges included cost, the steep grade of College Hill and the isolation of the West Side by Interstate 95.

Shepherd said since the Alta study, the growth of bike share systems across the country has brought down the cost and opened up new financing options.

The request for proposals says that the vendor, which will provide all equipment and labor to run the system, will be compensated through user fees, advertising and sponsorships. It does not mention any municipal financing of the system and provides extra credit to bids that offer “revenue sharing” opportunities for the city.

“We are trying to ID a vendor who would be willing to come to Providence and work with us for a pilot program and do it in a way that wouldn’t cost the city any resources,” Shepherd said.

Since the Alta study, New York City has launched a high-profile bike share system, sponsored by Citigroup Inc., that has become widely used and popular despite facing initial opposition. Some groups have complained that bike share takes away parking spaces, slows cars and puts more advertising on city streets.

Boston has had a bike share system for more than two years.

The Alta study estimated a Providence bike share system would cost $1.5 million up front with annual operating costs of $500,000.

Neighborhoods covered by the initial launch would be Downcity, College Hill, Capital Center, Fox Point, the Jewelry District, Hospital District and Federal Hill.

Future expansion areas should include Smith Hill, Elmhurst, Upper South Providence, Mount Hope and Blackstone with long-term connections to “other communities along the East Bay Bike Path,” it said.

The deadline for bids is Oct. 7 and Shepherd said the city hopes to choose a vendor and plan the pilot system this winter for launch next spring.

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