The Bikeshare program will be expanding and adding a bike station in Vinton this month. The bike station will be located at the Vinton Farmers’ Market with five bikes available for short-term rental around the valley.
Jeremy Holmes, director of RIDE Solutions, a program of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, made the announcement at the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce Lunch n’Learn session on March 1.
The Bikeshare program has been implemented in the Roanoke Valley by RIDE Solutions whose mission is to help individual commuters and businesses connect with a broad spectrum of alternative transportation options such as carpooling, transit, telework, and cycling. Part of the mission is to reduce air pollution from vehicle emissions.
The focus of the Bikeshare program is more on transportation than recreation, but the bikes can be used by the community “in a way that makes sense for them,” for commuting, shopping, dining and exploring the community in a way that is convenient, affordable, and healthy.
RIDE Solutions launched the Bikeshare program in May 2017 in partnership with Zagster, one of the leading providers of private and public-private bike sharing systems in the nation. Zagster’s stated goal is “to make the bike the most loved form of transportation.” The company specializes in bringing Bikeshare programs to mid-size cities.
The program began with 10 stations in the City of Roanoke. That quickly grew to 13 stations with 65 bikes. Now it is expanding to Vinton, and soon to Salem, Roanoke County and beyond, hoping to add four more stations in the first year of operation with an anticipated 17 stations and 85 bikes by the end of March.
Vinton benefited from an advance from Zagster and will be getting its station earlier than expected.
“We’re very excited about bringing Bikeshare to Vinton and earlier than was planned,” said Holmes.
“You ride it, you drop it off and you’ re kind of done with your trip so you don’t need to own a bike to get around by bike,” Holmes said.
People who want to use the Bikeshare system download a Zagster mobile app. Bike rentals are $3 an hour with the option to purchase a $40 annual membership that permits riders to use a bike for up to an hour per day at no extra charge. If they use the bike for more than an hour, they are charged $3 per hour.
The bikes are comfortable with wide, adjustable seats for adult riders ages 18 and older, automatic front and rear lights, seven gears, bells, reflectors, fenders and a guard chain to keep riders clean, and baskets. The bikes have a flexible lock so that riders can park anywhere, stop for errands or recreation, and then remount and continue their journey. Helmets are not part of the deal.
Bikesharing allows you to check out a bike from stations all across the Roanoke Valley, ride as long as you want, and return the bike to a same or different station. There is an employee who “rebalances” the stations so that bikes are generally always available.
Accessing Bikeshare is easy online or by using a Smartphone– simply download the free Zagster app from the App Store or Google Play. Select a membership plan or hourly plan, follow the instructions to unlock the bike and start riding. The app indicates where stations and bikes are available locally.
Holmes said the Bikeshare program has far surpassed expectations. He expects 15,000 to 20,000 trips will have been taken by the one-year mark. At this point surveys indicate that 30 percent of the trips have been taken for solely transportation purposes.
He says that there have been few incidents during the time the Bikeshare program has been in existence in the Roanoke area— no thefts and only minor vandalism. The bikes are equipped with technology and data that enables Zagster to keep up with where they are at any given time.
Todd Creasy, past president of the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce, said that Bikeshare “adds yet another element of tourism and community involvement for the town and the surrounding areas. Another exciting aspect to this investment is how it connects the Town of Vinton to places outside that are also experiencing growth opportunities like downtown Roanoke (City) and Explore Park. It’s an affordable and environmental-friendly way for people to explore the Town of Vinton and the greater Roanoke Valley.”
Justin Davison, current president of the Vinton Chamber, said, “I am very excited about Bikeshare coming to Vinton. I think it will increase connectivity to downtown and the nearby greenways. I also think it will allow people to enjoy the Town of Vinton in a different way. You can get a bike down at the Vinton Farmers’ Market, ride it to Macado’s and never have to move your car. I am very excited about this great opportunity.”
In response to a question about the lack of bike lanes in the area, Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters reminded attendees that the town has received a $1.4 million Regional Surface Transportation Grant (RSTP) to provide greenway linkages from Vinton to Roanoke City.
“These funds will be used to design and construct bike lanes, curb and gutter, and sidewalks from the end of Glade Creek Phase I to the Roanoke City limits along Walnut,” said Peters. “We are applying for future grants that will make this same improvement for the entire length of Walnut Avenue from the Farmers’ Market Stage to the city limits. Sidewalks do exist on one side of Walnut, but we’d like to add sidewalks to both sides, and stripe bike lanes along the route.”
There are also plans to add curb and gutter, entrance ramps to businesses, and street lamps all along the route.
According to Holmes, most of the funding for the local Bikeshare program has come from private sponsorships, although Downtown Roanoke Inc., and Carilion Clinic chipped in to get the program up and running initially. Some property and organization owners sponsor stations for their members. He says that the corporate community has “stepped up to make it happen.”
Bikeshare invites corporate sponsorships and provides significant marketing and advertising opportunities. The cost for sponsoring a station is $9,000 with the cost for each bike $1,800 per year with a two-year commitment.
Sponsors are needed for the system to keep expanding at both the station and bike level.
“Sponsorship of Bikeshare provides a visible return on investment,” said Holmes.
The average Bikeshare bike makes 200 trips per year of about 29 minutes each, generating over 2,000 impressions per trip and 400,000 impressions per year. RIDE Solutions says that additionally Bikeshare introduces people to new businesses along the routes and encourages spending. “Brand reputation skyrockets after a company sponsors Bikeshare.”
Bikeshare is seeking multiple sponsors to add stations and bikes to the local program, which includes station placement consideration, brand inclusion on the station, brand inclusion on bicycle baskets, brand inclusion on the system website, and free membership passes. Sponsorships of bikes can be shared.
For more information on Bikeshare, contact Pete Peters at the Town of Vinton, 983-0607, or Jeremy Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.